Call us to set up an appointment! Herndon (703) 561-0600 Ashburn (703) 723-4040

Latest Research

Latest Research

We will try to keep you updated on the current research in the field of chiropractic care. Here are a few articles for you to read. Please click one of the below topics:

The Effective of Chiropractic Care
  • M.D.'s now categorize chiropractic manipulation in the highest rating: "Generally accepted, well-established, and widely-used"
  • A panel of leading doctors agreed that chiropractic care is an effective and appropriate treatment for low back pain.
  • Two and three years after patients with low back pain were treated by chiropractors, they experienced far less pain than those who were treated by medical doctors.
  • After three weeks of chiropractic treatment, totally disabled patients with constant, severe back pain who had not responded to conservative or operative medical treatment were able to return to work symptom-free or with mild, intermittent pain.
  • Public judicial hearings held in New Zealand determined that chiropractic is both safe and effective and that patients should have the right to consult chiropractors directly.
What the Public Thinks of Chiropractic Care
General Public:
  • Nearly 30% of the U.S. population, aged 18 or older have used chiropractic.
  • 68% of those who have seen a chiropractor would be likely to do so again.
  • When asked why they would return to a chiropractor, 72% responded that the chiropractic treatment worked.
  • 58% of those who had used chiropractic consider it an essential part of their health insurance package.
  • Only 5% of users of chiropractic care are covered by an HMO.
  Chiropractic Family M.D.
Mean number of days incapacitated after first visit 10.8 39.7
Restricted for more than one week 17% 48%
Patient perception of doctor's confidence in diagnosing and treating low back pain 60% 23%
Very satisfied 66% 22%
COLONEL Edward B. Vedder, M.D. Information Page

Col Edward Vedder

Captain Vedder

This is a picture of a young Capt Vedder 1908?

There are many noteworthy military physicians recorded in the annals of history. This paper deals with one of the most overlooked of these great military physicians. This great physician/scientist early work laid the foundation for many other great scientists and concurrently saved thousands of lives. Col Edward B. Vedder, better known for his work with chemical warfare, was one of the great pioneers of vitamin deficiency research. Vedder's early work with thiamine deficiency (beriberi) was key to the conquering of this disease around the world. Vedder's impact, particularly upon Robert Williams, was instrumental to some of the greatest advances in nutritional biochemistry made in the twentieth century. Choosing a military career over fame or fortune, Col Vedder consistently demonstrated a love of service over self. Vedder's influence was far-reaching, both military and civilian. Truly, Col Vedder was a giant and many have stood upon his shoulders! This is his story.


The United States is blessed with the finest collection of armed forces in the world. There are many reasons why this is so. However, we can attribute much of our success in this area to the outstanding physicians and scientists whose research has supported our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. While some of the advances in medicine have come from outside the military, many great medical discoveries have occurred within the confines of the United States Military Medical Service. It is important that we acknowledge the great sacrifice made by the men and women who were at the forefront of such great discoveries. As the great Sir Isaac Newton penned in a letter to Sir Robert Hooke in 1676, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants".1 One of the more unrecognized of our "giants" is late Army physician Col (Dr.) Edward Vedder.

Early Years

Col. Vedder was born in New York City in 1878 22He was the son of Henry and Minnie Vedder. 2His father was a noted minister, historian, and author.2, 3 Henry Vedder would have a life-long influence on his son. His most notable traits, those being selflessness, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and great integrity, were also shared by his son (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). It was in such an environment that the young man was molded. In 1895, Col Vedder enrolled at the University of Rochester. This was the same institution that his father had attended.2 He attained academic success at an early age earning a Bachelor of Philosophy at the age of 20.3 He spent the next four years of his life at the University of Pennsylvania where he attended medical school.2 After graduation, he remained at the University of Pennsylvania for further study and research with Dr. Simon Flexner.2 Their research was focused on dysentary.2 Dr. Flexner would later become the first director of Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. As a physician with a great inquisitive nature, Col. Vedder's time with Dr. Flexner would lay the foundation for a great career in medical research. It is also probable that this was Vedder's first foray into tropical medicine. In a fortuitous bit of fate, three years before their meeting, Dr. Flexner had spent time with American troops and natives in the Philippines (Manila) where he found a strain of dysentery causing bacillus that became known as the Shigella flexneri.4 The allure of the Philippines, with it's unusual diseases and seemingly unlimited potential for medical research, must have captivated Col Vedder. It is with but a little imagination that one can imagine Col Vedder listening with great attention to Dr. Flexner telling of his experiences in the Philippines and unidentified microorganisms causing much affliction. Col Vedder received a Master of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1903.2 At this time, Vedder reached a crossroad in his professional career. Although he was fond of clinical medicine, he was infatuated with clinical research. However, he was also a great patriot, having a great love of country that was instilled by his father (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). With these things in mind, Col Vedder chose to pursue a lifelong career where he "could have it all". Near the turn of the century, the United States Army was an excellent choice for a research career (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). In 1903, he was commissioned in the United States Army and spent one year at the Army Medical School in Washington D.C .2, 5 From 1904-1906, Vedder was assigned to the Philipines in the guerrilla war against the Moros.5 After a short return to the United Staets, Vedder would return to the Phillipines in 1909 for a second tour.2, 5

Second Assignment to Philippines

With his wife Lillie, Col Vedder arrived in the Philippines. His son, Henry Clay Vedder II was born there in 1911.2, 5 Henry would later follow his father's footsteps and serve as a combat surgeon with General Patton in the Second World War.2 He also served in Korea and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.2 At the time of their arrival in 1909, the Philippines had been under United States control for a little over ten years.6 Among the many ailments and afflictions that accosted the soldiers and sailors in the Philippines were dysentery, parasitic infections, dengue, smallpox, malaria, beriberi, plague, and others.7 The importance of keeping the fighting men healthy was considered to be of such importance that a tropical disease board was commissioned to study and research the diseases affecting both humans and animals in the Philippines.7 Great strides were made by these boards.7. Many of the problematic issues were assigned to board members with skill, training, or similar experiencse with the particular disease.7 One disease for which there were few with experience was beriberi.7 From the experiences of his previous assignment and perhaps his work with Dr. Flexner, Capt Vedder took it upon himself to tackle the beriberi problem.7 Previous military physicians, much like the thought of the time, had attributed beriberi to a bacterial origin.7 However, Capt Vedder was not convinced. This is truly remarkable given his training with Dr. Flexner and probable indoctrination with the germ theory in medical school in the 1890s. Although difficult in an austere environment, Capt Vedder engrossed himself with the literature of the day.8 The thoughtful, thorough nature of his review was akin to the way his father had researched the many texts he published (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). It was not surprising that Vedder carefully dissected the papers and compared it with his own clinical observations. Vedder soon became an expert in the field.8 While space limits the review of the beriberi literature of Vedder's day, a short history of beriberi will shed light on the paradigms that Vedder faced.

Early Work in the Far East With Beriberi

Beriberi is disease caused by a deficiency in thiamine.8, 9 The manifestations of beriberi vary widely and this disease can occur in both adults and infants.8, 9 There is an abundance of other works that discuss the clinical aspects of beriberi 8-12 and the intent of this paper is not to review them. However, it must be noted that beriberi was a very serious problem causing thousands of deaths a year in the Philippines at the time Vedder was stationed there. 8 The appearance of beriberi caused great fear in the communities it affected because it was well known that when one case develops, many more soon follow.8 Beriberi has been known to man for almost 3,000 years.8 The occurrence of beriberi has been worldwide. However, it has become a prevalent problem in the Far East in the past 200 years.8 In addition, it was also seen in situations where individuals were kept in close quarters (insane asylums, prisons, prisoner of war camps, among sailors, etcÉ).8 Very early work (1850-1870) into the etiology and treatment of beriberi focused upon food.8, 9, 11 This fact is understandable given that scurvy, perhaps the most similarly characterized disease of the time, was understood to be diet related.13 One of the earliest proponents of a nutritional component of beriberi was the Dutch physician G.F. Pop who observed that beriberi was related to poor rations. 8 The Dutch surgeon Van Leent further proposed that specific components were deficient.12-14 He published a paper in 1879, based on his observations in the East Indies, that beriberi was caused by a uniform diet resulting in a deficiency in both fat and protein.14 Another military officer, the Japanese surgeon Kanehiro Takaki, changed the recommended ration given to the Japanese Navy. This change in diet resulted in a dramatic decrease in the incidence of beriberi.8, 14, 15 There were many others who also noticed an association between beriberi and food during 1860-1880.8

The Germ Theory and its Impact Upon Beriberi

The possibility that food may play a role in beriberi was largely discredited with the acceptance of the germ theory of disease.13 During the later part of the 19th century, the work of Pastuer, Lister, and other pioneers of bacteriology had a tremendous impact upon the medical community.8 In short order, many medical advances were made because of the identification of a particular microorganism as the causative agent of a disease.8 To the current reader, it may be empting to overlook the tremendous change in paradigms that the acceptance of the germ theory generated. However, with diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, bubonic plague, and diphtheria validated by the germ theory, it would have been difficult for this theory not to dominate current thinking.8 It not surprising that bacteriology soon became the chief cornerstone for medical education.8 Williams eloquently points this out by stating "all young physicians were so imbued with the idea of infection as the cause of disease that it presently came to be accepted as almost axiomatic that disease could have no other cause."8 This is no doubt the learning environment that Vedder was surrounded in during his early medical education. By 1913, Vedder reported that eighteen different individuals had "proven" microorganisms were responsible for beriberi.8

Christian Eijkman, the Nobel-prize winning scientist who had studied with Robert Koch, was definitely influenced by the germ theory. As a Dutch military physician assigned to the East Indies, he saw first hand the massive problems that beriberi presented.8, 12, 14 After leaving the East Indies for two years to recover from malaria, Eijkman returned with two prominent scientists with the goal of isolating the causative organism of beriberi.14 The two accompanying scientists, Pekelharing and Winkler, returned to Holland after one year and announced they had discovered a bacillus that caused beriberi. 8, 14 Eijkman was left behind to isolate and identify the organism.8, 14 While conducting experiments with chickens, Eijkman accidentally discovered those that ate polished rice developed a condition very similar to beriberi.8, 14 He named this condition polyneuritis gallinarum.8 Initially, Eijkman did not realize this to be a nutritional deficiency. Rather, he considered the possibilities of a toxin or microorganism in the rice. By 1906, Eijkman did attribute beriberi to a diet high in starch.8 However, he did not attribute it to a particular deficiency until years later.8 Eijkman's primary contribution to beriberi research was the establishment of a reproducible animal model.8 Eijkman left the far east ten years before Vedder's arrival. Gerrit Grijns, an associate of Eijkman, followed his work and made several important discoveries. Grijins proved that several nutritional components (i.e. fats) were not protective in nature and stated that the lack of "a protective substance" was causing the disease.8 Others, including Vorderman, Braddon, Fletcher, Fraser, and Stanton, noted that epidemiological evidence supported a role of food (specifically white rice) in the development of beriberi.8 At the time of Vedder's arrival in the Philippines, the cause and treatment of beriberi was still very much a contentious matter.8

A Chance Meeting With Robert Williams

By the beginning of 1910, Vedder, having immersed himself with the current research, was ready to take action. He was particularly impressed with the recent work of Fraser and Stanton.8 Fraser and Stanton had provided the strongest proof of a deficiency occurring in beriberi.16 During experiments with laborers, they demonstrated that the alcoholic extract of rice was effective in treating beriberi.8 Fraser and Stanton presented their work at the first meeting of the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine.16 Fraser and Stanton were the first scientists of the twentieth century to propose unequivocally that beriberi was caused by a nutritional deficiency. This was a very bold statement for that time! Luckily, Vedder had the foresight to attend the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine meeting.8 He was sufficiently impressed by this presentation, along with the previous work of Eijkman and Grijns, to understand the importance of quick implementation of diets low in white rice and the requirement for further research.8 Vedder was also convinced, unlike the vast majority of his peers, that the polyneuritis seen by Eijkman was the same as human beriberi.8 It was with this newfound enthusiasm that Vedder and Williams first met.8, 16

In the fall of 1910, Vedder went to the Bureau of Science, which was staffed with American scientists, for assistance in isolating the agent he thought was in the extract of rice polishings that may cure beriberi.8 Although an expert chemist in his later years, his experience up to this point primarily included bacteriology and clinical medicine.8 The director of the Bureau pointed him in the direction of a new addition to his staff, a young twenty-four year old chemist named Robert Williams.8 Like Vedder, Williams was brought up in a very religious home.17 Until the age of 10, he lived in Nellore, India, the son of Missionaries. 17 During this time, he saw incredible suffering including beriberi.17 This experience would serve him well in both his experiences with Vedder and later in life when he would be a key player in greatly reducing thiamine deficiency worldwide. Williams and Vedder found themselves to be very compatible right from the start. Although only eight years older than Williams, Vedder was an excellent mentor, confidant, and friend.8 Williams had attended the University of Chicago, where he earned both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in chemistry.8 He had returned to the Far East hoping to obtain a job with the Bureau of Science.17 Before his meeting with Vedder, the young Williams had no clear direction in his life's professional direction.8 This was about to change in a dramatic manner.

Vedder, however, did have a clear vision of the problem. He knew that he needed expert assistance with analytical chemistry. If he could only isolate the beriberi preventing substance from the extract of rice polishing, he was sure many lives could be saved.8 In addition, he was concerned about the health of the armed forces stationed in the Philippines. In the Philippines, the American troops were not directly affected to a great extent by beriberi.6, 8 However, it is quite certain that Vedder was aware of the great number of military members of other countries affected as reported by Takaki in Japan and Eijkman in Indonesia. 8, 12, 15 Without the knowledge of the causative or protective agents, the disease could afflict American forces at any time. In addition, the health of Filipino scouts, whose job it was to provide security and protection for the American forces, was greatly affected.6, 8 The effectiveness of these scouts was severely affected by beriberi. 8 To attest to this seriousness, as many as 1 in 300 individuals of Manilla died each year of beriberi.8

There were many reasons for Williams to not or minimally support Vedder. First, the Bureau of Science had previously experienced mixed results when working with beriberi.8 If more experienced researchers had not had a great deal of success, why would he? Second, Vedder had not yet made a name for himself on the island. Investment of time and energy in collaboration with him could end up being a waste of time and money or possibly even embarrassing. And last, Williams had no experience with this kind of work. Surely Vedder had the same reservations about him.8 As a novice to biomedical research, Williams was not in a position to adequately judge or value the information that Vedder initially shared with him.8 Vedder did have three major intangibles that made his proposal irresistible. First, his enthusiasm about beriberi was unmatched.8 Second, Vedder communicated the importance of beriberi research in unequivocal terms.8 And perhaps most importantly, Vedder had more confidence in Williams that Williams had in himself.8 Vedder "knew" that Williams could do the job! Williams took Vedder's word at face value and accepted the invitation to collaborate.8 Williams worked with Vedder for one year before he was furloughed to the United States.8 At this point, both Williams and Vedder suspected they were dealing with a nitrogenous substance that was effective in treating both polyneuritis in fowl and beriberi in humans.8 Williams returned to the Philippines a year later in 1912 only to be told by Vedder that Casmir Funk had published a paper on a beriberi preventing substance.8. In reality, Funk's substance was nicotinic acid, but Vedder and Williams had been "scooped".8  Vedder would leave the Philippines the next year.

Great Accomplishments in Nutrition

One of the great accomplishments of Col Vedder was the first documented treatment for infantile beriberi.7, 8 The extract from rice polishing that he used to treat the thiamine deficient infants saved countless lives and conclusively demonstrated that beriberi was a deficiency disease and not the result of a toxin in the mother's milk.7, 8 Vedder's preparation was considered key to reducing the beriberi death rate in Manila from ten percent of all births in 1914-16 to around two percent in 1927-30.12 Those that did die from beriberi were not given the preparation.18 Vedder had returned for a third tour in the Philippines in the late 1920s and he must have been delighted to see this reduction.

Vedder, who like his father was an excellent communicator, saw a great need to share the information he had gained. The text that was of primary use to the student of beriberi in Vedder's day was published by a member of the British Colonial Service, W. L. Braddon, entitled "The Cause and Prevention of Beriberi".8 While a leap forward in many respects, Braddon theorized that the cause of beriberi was a toxin in the rice.19 In 1913, Vedder published the appropriately titled Beriberi that was surprisingly complete and thorough (15 detailed chapters) considering Vedder's short time working with the disease. 7-9, 11 As Williams mentions in his landmark text on thiamine in 1938 "This publication was very influential among medical circles in the East because of its careful analysis of the evidence and because Vedder himself had been a moving spirit in eradicating beriberi from the Philippines Scouts by introducing unpolished rice into their ration".9 Vedder's text quickly became the reference of choice and influenced countless physicians treating patients stricken with beriberi.9 This book, along with other articles published by Vedder, was the turning point for convincing the scientific community that thiamine deficiency was not due to a toxin, but rather due to a deficiency. Another important aspect of this book was that it drew attention to researchers in the United States of the work done in the Far East.12

With the exception of beriberi, the most significant non-military contribution made by Vedder was with vitamin C.8 His work was important in that it settled a controversy over what the "antiscorbutic vitamin" was.20  Working for many years in his spare time and covering multiple challenging assignments, Vedder's work on synthesizing Vitamin C came just a few weeks after C.G. King reported it. 8, 10, 20 Although not the first to synthesize Vitamin C, Vedder's work was independent, ingenuous, and significant.10 In addition, Col Vedder, along with Dr. George Rommel, proved unequivocally that beriberi can be seen in swine given a diet low in thiamine such as rice or cottonseed.8, 21 It is of note that beriberi in swine is not seen today due to sufficient thiamine in their diet (personal communication, Nathan C. Johnson, DVM).

Vedder was also one of the first individuals to propose the concept for the existence of vitamins. Casmir Funk is credited with coining the term "vitamine". There is some debate as who actually first described vitamins as Sir Frederick Hopkins used the term "accessory food factors" in 1906.12 Vedder used his own term calling the substance that which is "necessary to life".8 Funk's simpler and bolder term had more appeal and therefore was adopted by the scientific community in lieu of Vedder's terminology.8 However, this does not negate the foresight of Vedder in his proposed terminology.

Although a novice biochemist at the time, Vedder was a quick learner.8 Working with Chamberlain, he laid the groundwork for the isolation of thiamine that would occur fifteen years later. Vedder's contribution in to the future isolation of thiamine was substantial. His experimentation demonstrated that the substance was not fat soluble, that it strongly adsorbed to bone charcoal from which it was not readily removed, and was crystalloidal in nature.8 These were great advances and Vedder was the first to use an adsorbent as a first step in the isolation of the compound.8 Williams stated this well : "All the quite marvelous developments of chromatography in recent years and outgrowths of the knowledge of adsorbents which in a true sense began with Vedder in 1910".

Vedder was also the first to demonstrate that fowl with no apparent clinical signs or symptoms of vitamin deficiency had neurological damage to the sciatic nerve.8 This was a major finding and demonstrated that there were different degrees of vitamin deficiency and could be affecting many more that originally thought. By 1929, Vedder had published the most complete guide to the clinical symptomology of beriberi.8

Other Great Accomplishments

Col Vedder was a great advocate of field sanitation and the impact of its proper use on the application of warfare. He used his time in the Philippines to create a very valuable practical text on field sanitaiton for Amry medical officers22 Col Vedder was also a great pioneer in chemical warfare research and defense.22 In 1922, he was appointed to lead the facility at Edgewood Arsenal that produced gas masks that could filter smoke. Previous gas masks did not have this capability.22 These new gas masks also provided protection against arsenic-based compounds.22 This was a major advance in the protection of American forces against chemical weapons. It was also during his time at Edgewood Arsenal that he conducted very important animal research into the effects of chemical agents.22 In 1925, he published a book entitled Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare.23 Although nearly 80 years old, this text is still useful today, particularly in reference to mustard agents.22 Vedder also conducted research and lectured on over twenty other topics including, but not limited to, syphilis, plague, pellagra, medical hygiene, cholera, dysentery, and a host of others.2 It is also understandable, due to his interaction and participation in many historical medical events that he would also contribute to the literature concerning medical history. His text, entitled "Medicine: Its Contribution To Civilization", was a must for the medical historian of Vedder's day.18 In his later years, he devoted his life to imparting his life-long medical knowledge to medical students at George Washington University and residents at Alameda County Hospital in California. He was given many military and civilian awards. Among others, he was awarded the Cartwright Award given by the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Welcome Essay Prize by the Association of Military Surgeons, selection of the representative of the United States at the seveneth congress of the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine, and was honored by laying of the cornerstone for the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester in 1924.2 To his credit, he had over seventy publications, including seventeen to Military Surgeon, and countless presentations at the time of his death.5

Impact Upon Others

Perhaps no other person was influenced by Edward Vedder than was Robert Williams. Although he departed the Philippines a few years after Vedder, he kept in contact with his mentor and continued to research the "beriberi-preventing vitamin."8 (williams). In 1919, Williams left his civil service job to work for Bell Telephone.8 Like Vedder, Williams continued his work in his off duty time.8 In a stunning foreshadowing of the events that followed, Vedder included that following in his 1929 text, "for an unknown substance having such important physiological properties is a challenge t chemistry and chemists that will not be ignored."18 Williams isolated thiamine in crystalline form in 1933 and synthesized thiamine two years later.8, 18 In fact, Williams coined the term "thiamine."8 Some of the last widespread outbreaks of beriberi occurred during the Second World War.8, 24 Many Americans suffered from beriberi while in prisoner of war status.24. In addition to the many lives he directly saved from his early work with beriberi, Vedder also indirectly affected many more. Without his personal interaction with Vedder, it is probable that Williams would not have become involved with beriberi research.8 The importance of their collaboration must not be minimized or taken for granted. Williams, like his mentor Vedder, published a landmark text about beriberi 1938.9 This book was of paramount importance during the Second World War.9 This text was distributed shortly before the outbreak of war. Many of the physicians who were captured and served in camp clinics were ill prepared, both in knowledge and experience, to care for individuals with beriberi.9 For those who could get a copy of this book, the information that it contained was a God-send.9 One such physician, Dr. R. C. Burgess, used the text as his primary beriberi reference.9 Dr. Burgess saved thousands of lives between 1942-1945 in the Changi prisoner of war camp on the island of Singapore with the help of this book.9 Later in life, Williams, selfless like his mentor, directed almost all the royalties from his patents to the Williams-Waterman fund that helped dramatically reduce the amount of thiamine deficiency worldwide.9

Another probable indirect influence of Vedder's association with Williams was that on William's brother, Roger John. It is not known if Vedder ever met Roger John Williams. It is also unknown of the scientific influence that Vedder may have had on Roger John Williams through the work of Vedder's scientific publications. However, Vedder's enthusiasm for his work did affect the life of Roger Williams. Roger Williams was seven years younger than his oldest brother Robert.25 Unlike Robert, Roger left the Far East at a very young age and was not influenced by the poverty and disease that his older brother had seen. (Personal communication, Dr. Don Davis, University of Texas). At the time of Robert Williams exciting initial meeting with Vedder, Roger was an impressionable youth of sixteen years of age. Robert was a natural leader and his younger brother looked to him for guidance. Compounding his reliance on his older brother was the fact that his father, who was 55 when Roger was born, suffered a debilitating hip injury when Roger was one year old.25 The direct influence of Robert Williams (and indirectly Vedder) on him is best stated by Roger Williams on words taken from his unpublished autobiography: "My interest in the field of chemistry was no doubt stimulated by the fact that my older brother Bob, whom I have always admired, was a chemist by the time I had to make a decision concerning my vocation". (Personal communication, Dr. Don Davis). It is not then surprising that Roger Williams attended the same school for his graduate studies, The University of Chicago, which his older brother attended.17, 25 It is also not surprising, given that Robert Williams was gaining a renowned reputation in the vitamin world, that the graduate work of Roger Williams was performed on vitamins.25 Roger Williams, in his autobiography, commented on this: "It has been commented upon that both of us have made contributions in the same field--vitamins. We do have many inclinations that are similar and it is not surprising that human welfare looms large on the horizon of each of us". Roger John Williams went on to earn his Doctorate from the University of Chicago.25 He would later go on to become one of the true giants in the world of nutritional research. Among his credits are the discovery of panothenic acid, folic acid, iositol, lipic, avidin, advacnements in biochemical individuality, and many books.25 It is very possible that none of these great things would have been accomplished by Roger Williams had not Vedder enthusiastically shared his research interests with Robert Williams in 1910.

Col Vedder also had an enormous impact upon the physicians and other personnel who surrounded him. A careful examination of the medical literature of the early twentieth century is replete with references to his work5. Vedder was also a lifelong advocate of military medicine and used every opportunity he could to tell others about careers in military medicine. It was not uncommon for Vedder to spend many hours after duty hours mentoring younger military physicians (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). Vedder touched the lives of many military medical leaders of the mid-twentieth century while at the Army School of Medicine. The United States Army thought so highly of Col Vedder that a movie was made about his early career entitled "The Modest Miracle" (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). The life thatl Vedder lived was the inspiration for many, including his son Henry, to make the military a career. There are countless others that he had a positive impact upon. For example, his sergeant in charge of his poultry experiments in the Phillipines, W.W.

Swingle, later became a noted professor at Princeton.10

The Lack of Recognition

It is very curious that Col Vedder has not received the proper recognition from the civilian community for his work with beriberi. It should be noted that he still receives an abundance of credit from the military leaders for his work with chemical warfare. 22 However, a cursory review of the literature of the great pioneers of beriberi progress rarely mentions Vedder.26 However, those in the first half of the twentieth century were not sparse with their praise of Vedder.27 Most of the important works concerning beriberi written after 1913 reference his text Beriberi or some other aspect of his research. In fact, Eijkman mentioned Chamberlain and Vedder's work in his Nobel lecture in 1929.28 So why do modern historians ignore this great pioneer? The first reason was his humility. This was his most noted characteristic (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). A very good example of his humility is taken from his work with Vitamin C. The synthesis of Vitamin C was very difficult. It was known that the person who successfully accomplished this feat would receive great notoriety.8, 20 It would be quite understandable for Vedder to harbor sour grapes for his shortcoming in this race. He could have been angry at the Army because his primary duties retarded his progress. He could have been upset that his multiple assignments invariably created lost time with the upheaval of laboratories. Vedder also could have been mad at the military transfer of key assistants along the way. However, the grace and dignity with which he reported his findings in December 1932 I issue of The Military Surgeon is most commendable.20 In fact, Vedder goes to great lengths to support the findings of King, the individual who first reported Vitamin C synthesis.20

Another reason why Vedder does not get the proper credit is his service in the Army. While beriberi was very important during his time in the Philippines, other issues were more pressing after his return to the United States. A great interest in other topics (i.e. chemical warfare) rightly preoccupied the United States Army Medical Service in the early part of the twentieth century.22 Much of his work after his return from the Philippines centered on topics that held much more military relevance than civilian relevance. In addition, the constant moving by himself and assistants, along with the various other duties expected of a military officer, likely impeded his work. As mentioned previously, much of his work was done in his "spare" time. For this reason, he did not have a chance to spend as much time as his peers working on the same problems. As was the case with Vitamin C synthesis and certain aspects of his beriberi research, it was a case of finishing or publishing his work a little too late to capture the glory that might have been his.

A final reason for his lack of credit may very well be the same reason that made him such a great scientific investigator, his keen inquisitive nature. Vedder was interested in such a wide array of topics that it was possible these "side-interests" could have taken away from his primary areas of expertise (beriberi, vitamin C, chemical warfare, and field sanitation). However, the multi-faceted nature of his experiences and knowledge were what made him the great man of medicine he was and so impactful on such a large number of lives.

Lessons For Today's Military Officer

There are many valuable lessons that the modern military officer can learn from the life of Col Vedder. Perhaps the most important lesson that can be gleamed from Vedder is consistency in which he lived his life. From the very beginning of his career, he embraced the core values of the Army and dedicated his life to helping his fellow solider. Embracement, and living, of the organization's values is a key component for great accomplishments.29 Vedders's sense of duty was second to none. Without complaints, Vedder moved his family, and his research, many times to take on challenging duties. During these transitions, the primary motivator for him was doing what was right for the common soilder (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). Col Vedder once turned down a promotion to Brigadier General because it would take him away from important research that could save the lives of Army personnel (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). Selflessness was an integral part of Vedder's inner being. Vedder also demonstrated that military and professional excellences are not mutually exclusive. While more noted for his military specific contributions, his contemporary peers were equally impressed with his medical contributions.30 Vedder was not afraid to take chances, as demonstrated by his unconventional stance that beriberi was caused by a deficiency, and was not afraid of monumental tasks (i.e. eradicating beriberi from the Philippine Scouts, synthesis of Vitamin C, etcÉ). Vedder also communicated his thoughts and findings to both the civilian and military medical communities.11, 20, 31, 32

Col Vedder's Death

Col Vedder died in 1952 from lung cancer (personal communication, Mrs. Martha Vedder). For the last fifteen years of his life, he suffered from a severe form of tropical sprue.5, 8 This is ironic because it was also one of his research interests. It is of note that Col Vedder died at Walter-Reed Hospital surrounded by his son and other Army personnel that he dedicated his life to helping. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetary.5


Col Edward B. Vedder was truly a remarkable man. In the history of the United States Military Medical Service, there are few physicians who have made the combination of both military-specific and civilian medical breakthroughs. A noted communicator, scientist, and officer, Vedder made significant contributions to all of the projects he worked on. A physician with unparalleled dedication, Vedder toiled unrelentingly for many years on various projects. Although most noted for his work with chemical warfare, his often-overlooked work with the nutritional aspects of medicine was crucial to the eradication of beriberi and laid the groundwork for other important scientific discoveries. Vedder's life was a living example of the contributions that are possible by the future military physicians of the United States Armed Services.


1               Kaplan R. Science says : a collection of quotations on the history, meaning, and practice of science. New York: W.H. Freeman; 2001.

2               Library. EGM. Rare Books & Manuscripts: The Papers of Edward Bright Vedder (1878-1952). Available at: Accessed 25 May 2002, 2002.


1               Release UoRN. Educational tradition passed through four generations. Available at: Accessed May 15, 2002, 2002.

2               Kohler W. Zentralblatt fur Bakteriologie--100 years ago: the isolation of Shigella. Int J Med Microbiol. 2000;290(1):5-6.

3               Williams RR. Edward Bright Vedder - A Biographical Sketch. The Journal of Nutrition. May 1962;77:1-6.

4               Bayne-Jones S. The evolution of preventive medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939. Washington,: Office of the Surgeon General Dept. of the Army; for sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.; 1968.

5               Gillett MC, Center of Military History. The Army Medical Department, 1865-1917. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History U.S. Army : For sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. G.P.O.; 1995.

6               Williams RR. Toward the conquest of beriberi. Cambridge,: Harvard University Press; 1961.

7               Williams RR, Spies TD. Vitamin Bb1s (thiamin) and its use in medicine. New York,: The Macmillan company; 1938.

8               Williams RR. Williams-Waterman Fund for the combat of dietary diseases, a history of the period 1935 through 1955. New York,: Research Corp.; 1956.

9               Vedder EB. Beriberi. New York,: William Wood; 1913.

10            Carpenter KJ. Beriberi, white rice, and vitamin B : a disease, a cause, and a cure. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2000.

11            Carter KC. The germ theory, beriberi, and the deficiency theory of disease. Med Hist. 1977;21(2):119-136.

                  14.       Carpenter Kj Fau - Sutherland B, Sutherland B. Eijkman's contribution to the discovery of vitamins. J Nutr. 1995;125(2):155- 163.

12            Itokawa Y. Kanehiro Takaki (1849-1920)--a biographical sketch. J Nutr. 1976;106(5):581-588.

13            Swazey JP, Reeds K, National Cancer Institute (U.S.). Today's medicine, tomorrow's science : essays on paths of discovery in the biomedical sciences. Washington: U.S. Dept. of Health Education and Welfare Public Health Service National Institutes of Health : 1978.

14            Fame NIHo. Profile of Robert R. Williams. Available at: Accessed May 20, 2002, 2002.

15            Vedder EB. Medicine; its contribution to civilization. Baltimore,: The Williams & Wilkins Company; 1929.

16            Fraser DW. Vitamins and vitriol: W.L. Braddon's epidemiology of Beriberi. Am J Epidemiol. 1998;148(6):519-527.

17            Vedder EB. A study of the antiscorbutic vitamin. Military Surgeon. 1932:505-515.

18            Rommel GM, Vedder EB. Beriberi and cottonseed poisoing in pigs. Journal of Agricultural Research. 1916;5(2):489-493.

19            Sidell FR, Takafuji ET, Franz DR. Medical aspects of chemical and biological warfare. Washington, D.C.

20            Vedder EB, Walton DC. The medical aspects of chemical warfare. Baltimore,: Williams & Wilkins company; 1925.

21            Donovan JG. I came back from Bataan. Greenville, SC: Blue Ridge Publishing; 1997.

22            Davis DR. In Memoriam: Roger John Williams


1893-1988. The Journal of Applied Nutrition. 1988;40(2):121-125.

1               Bailey H. The Vitamin Pioneers. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books; 1968.

2               Carpenter KJ, Harper AE, Olson RE. Experiments that changed nutritional thinking. Proceedings of a minisymposium. Atlanta, Georgia, April 1995 and Washington, DC, April 1996. J Nutr. 1997;127(5 Suppl):1017S-1053S.

3               e-Museum N. Christiaan Eijkman Ð Nobel Lecture. Available at: Accessed May 14, 2002, 2002.

4               Johnson NH. Core Values Improve Laboratory Operations. Laboratory Medicine. 1997;28(19):630-631.

5               Williams RR. Who's who in the beri-beri vitmain field. Science. 1934;79:410.

                  31.       United States. Surgeon-General's Office., International Congress of Hygiene and Demography. Papers by officers of the Medical Corps,

                  U.S. Army, Read before the fifteenth International Congress on hygiene and demography, Washington, D.C., September, 1912. Washington,: Govt. Print. Off.; 1913.

6               Vedder EB. Syphilis and public health. Philadelphia and New York,: Lea & Febiger; 1918.
"This information and website content is not intended to diagnose, guarantee results, or recommend specific treatment or activity. It is designed to educate and inform only. Please consult your physician for a thorough examination leading to a diagnosis and well-planned treatment strategy. See more details on the DISCLAIMER page. Content is reviewed by Dr. James M. Cox I."