By the beginning of the 20th century, it was widely known that there was an antiscorbutic substance in certain fruits and vegetables that could prevent or cure scurvy. Since the terms "fat-soluble A" and "water-soluble B" had already been chosen, the antiscorbutic substance was named "vitamin C" (Hodges 1980). Many individuals attempted to discover the nature of the antiscorbutic substance and fortunately the guinea pig was selected as a suitable animal for studying vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is the only vitamin required in the human diet that is not required in the diets of most animal species except in that of primates, the guinea pig, the fruit-eating bat of India, a few other birds, and several species of trout and salmon (Combs, 1992).
Zilva worked for many years attempting to isolate and identify the antiscorbutic factor; he demonstrated that it was quite perishable under conditions of heat, aeration, and contact with metals such as iron and copper, and that it was water-soluble. Two other groups-King and Waugh and Szent-Gyorgyi (Hodges, 1980)-working independently isolated vitamin C almost simultaneously and both reported on it in 1932. Shortly after the joint discovery and identification of vitamin C as "hexuronic acid", this compound was synthesised. Pure ascorbic acid is synthesized from d-sorbitol where 100 g of the sugar results in a yield of 30 g of ascorbic acid.