Vorderman AG (1897)

Onderzoek naar het verband tusschen den aard der rijstvoeding in de gevangenissen op Java en Madoera en het voorkomen van beri-beri onder de geïnterneerden. Batavia: Jav. Boekh. & Drukkerij.
At the end of the 19th century, Adolphe Vorderman, a prison medical officer in the Dutch East Indies, used blinding to obtain unbiased estimates of the effects of unpolished rice in preventing beri-beri.

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“My remark, that in accordance with the results of his (Eijkman’s) experiments with poultry, I recalled never to have seen Beri-beri in prisons where red rice was used as the main nutrition but that I had always seen white rice given as the main nutrition in prisons where Beri-beri occurred, prompted Dr Eijkman to ask me whether he might use this at some point in time. For my part, there was no objection. Only, I wished first to have data from all prisons of Java and Madoera, not only for the sake of completeness, but also to verify whether this peculiarity was also present in the prisons that I had not so far visited.

Therefore, I wrote a letter to all Heads of the Local Governments, with questions about the main type of nutrition of the prisoners, and about the occurrence of Beri-beri among these people, without, however, mentioning any possible relation between these two factors (p. 2).”



“Mention of this special part of the aim of the visit was kept secret, however, to prevent it becoming known, in case the Chinese suppliers who delivered the food would show types of rice other than the one they usually provided (p. 3).

Even if the rice was of inferior quality, or if there were other remarks to be made about the food, these were temporarily withheld, to prevent the Chinese suppliers guessing the special aim of the mission, and warning each other about my visit (p. 5).”



“The expert [who assessed the rice, transl.] did not know anything about the places where the samples were taken, because they were presented to him by the dozen, in small bottles marked only by a letter or number. His brief was: determine whether the rice came from Saigon, Rangoon or Siam (p. 5).

Only after the categorisation of the different prisons according to the types of rice was established, were the statistics which I had collected about Beri-beri sufferers and prisoners given to the above named medical doctors, to be ordered in the columns of appendix 10 (p. 58).”

Translation by Jan P Vandenbroucke


The editors are grateful to:

Harm Beukers, University of Leiden, for providing a copy of this record.

Kenneth Carpenter, University of California, Berkeley, for suggestions offered on an earlier draft of the commentary.