- Het wondermiddel van professor Buytendijk: het vitaminepreparaat Eviunis en de risico's van wetenschappelijke voorspraak
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- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
Professor Buytendijk’s miracle drug. The vitamin preparation Eviunis and the risks of scientists doing publicity work
The discovery of vitamins at the start of the 20th century not only stimulated new areas of scientific research in the field of nutrition and pharmacy; vitamins also turned out to be profitable products for new or existing industries. Consequently, vitamins drove scientists and commercial vitamin producers into each others’ arms during the first decades of the century. Several publications - by Harmke Kamminga and Sally Horrocks for instance - deal with the causes and effects of forms of co-operation between science and industry in the nutritional and pharmaceutical sector. They mostly stress - using examples from Great-Britain - the interconnected interests from which both profited: industry-sponsored vitamin research made vitamins available to a larger public of consumers, with scientists authorizing the health claims of the products these companies tried to sell.
This article shows how Dutch scientists and vitamin producers were concerned with the same issue in the inter-war period. Not only does it focus on the interconnected interests, but particularly on the conflicts of interests scientists were experiencing whilst performing advisory or research work for the industry. The article singles out F.J.J. Buytendijk, nowadays remembered for his pioneering research in the field of phenomenological psychology after the Second World War, and his involvement with the Swiss vitamin preparation Eviunis at the end of the nineteen-twenties.
Buytendijk actively promoted the introduction of this particular preparation on the Dutch market. He was confronted with a growing number of critics, however, after tests demonstrated how the preparation could hardly sustain any of the claims that had been made with regard to its vitamin-like performance. Buytendijk’s strongest critics accused him of misusing his scientific authority to sell a fraudulent product - after all, he that maintained his own tests had confirmed Eviunis’ claims. A final, state-ordered counter test of Eviunis resulted in the ban of the preparation from the Dutch market. However, it did not condemn Buytendijks commitment to the product. It only concluded that the physiologist had been mistaken in his interpretation of the working of Eviunis. Buytendijk’s reputation as a vitamin researcher compromised nonetheless, because of his spirited commitment to a product that turned out to sell an illusion.
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