The following is what I remember from Vitamin Puzzle by Ann E Weiss, Malcolm E Weiss, and Pat De Aloe available in hardcover from Amazon.com for $.01. Okay, this just proves I'm not an expert on anything when I bounce all the way to the second grade where Mrs. Askins, my teacher at Sunnyside Elementary in Pullman, WA, read us this book.
This book tells the history of how we came to find out about vitamins in food, and the part I remember well enough to tell is a story Mrs. Askins read to us with such animation and postceded by a small discussion to see if we got the story. It was wartime, perhaps WWI, and the government was feeding the military. It wanted to give its military the finest, so it shipped them loads of white rice, which was the latest fine food which had the brown hulls stripped away to make it a real fancy treat for the hardworking men and women.
The military broke out in scurvy, and come to find out, the brown hulls which had been stripped away were actually full of nutrients necessary for well-being. Thus came the realization of vitamins, their role and importance, and since then we have been fortifying our food with synthetic vitamins and minerals as mandated per the FDA.