Plants has been producing antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), polyphenols and tocopherols (vitamin E) since a long time ago as its defense mechanisms against reactive oxygen species that are byproducts of photosynthesis.

Antioxidants has been recorded in the medical literature since the early 19th and 20th centuries. Even so, researches and health practitioners have been discussing them for much longer.

Antioxidants were used for the first time in the 19th century in the rubber industry to slow the degradation and allow optimization of the process of vulcanization.  Antioxidants then entered the food industry in the 20th century as additives to prevent the oxidative degradation of stored food. The oxidation process spoils most food, especially those with a high fat content.

Antioxidants also used in other industrial processes such as prevention of metal corrosion, the polymerization of fuels in the fouling of internal combustion engines. Antioxidants began to gain the public attention in 1990s, when researchers found out that free radicals’ damage was involved in the early stage of artery-clogging atherosclerosis and might lead to cancer, vision loss and other health disorders.

How scientist discover antioxidant?

Who discovered antioxidants?

There was no consensus among the researchers upon who first “discovered” antioxidants. Each antioxidant has its own unique history of discovery. However, the following researchers have made a big contribution in the discovery of antioxidant.


Vitamin A by Frederick Gowland Hopkins 
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Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861-1947)

Vitamin A is one of the antioxidants source. It was discovered by an English biochemist, Frederick Gowland Hopkins in 1912. Hopkins found an unknown factors present in milk that were not fats, proteins or carbohydrates, but were required to aid growth in rats. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his valuable discovery.

Antioxidant function of Vitamin C and E by Henry A. Mattill

Henry A. Mattill (1883–1953)

According to the history of nutrition, the antioxidant function of vitamin C and E was discovered by Henry A. Mattill during 1920s-1950s, on why animals fed with whole foods sustain longer and remained healthier. Mattill was the president of American Society of Biological Chemists in 1952.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD) by Dr. Joe Milton McCord
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Dr. Joe Milton McCord

An American biochemist, Dr. Joe Milton McCord then managed to discover the function of antioxidant enzymes which is superoxide dismutase (SOD) and the existence of this beneficial compound inside the living organisms, including human and its deficiency as they age.   


American Society for Nutrition. (2005). The Discovery of the Antioxidant Function of Vitamin E: the contribution of Henry A. Mattill. The Journal of Nutrition, 363–366. Retrieved from
Centre for Public Health Sciences. (2008). Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 102–108.
Clair, D. M. (2014). Redox Pioneer: Professor Joe M. McCord. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.
Doctors Beyond Medicine. (n.d.). History of Antioxidants Knowledge and Their Usage. Retrieved from Doctors Beyond Medicine:
Dr. Ananya Mandal, M. (2019, Feb 27). Vitamin A History. Retrieved from News Medical :
Ursini, F. (n.d.). HISTORY OF ANTIOXIDANTS. Retrieved from Anti Aging Club:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Antioxidant. Retrieved from Wikipedia: