He was born in Warsaw to a Jewish family, as the son of Jakub, a dermatologist. In 1900 he graduated from gymnasium, after which he went to Switzerland to study biology in Geneva, and then chemistry in Bern. In 1904, he obtained a doctorate under the supervision of Stanisław Kostanecki.
In the following years he worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, at the University of Berlin and in Great Britain. An essential step towards the discovery of vitamins was research into the cause of beriberi disease. Funk isolated the first vitamin B1 from rice bran. He received the previously unknown union in 1912 in England.
“The Polish Scientific Institute of America has annually presents the award named after him to scientists of Polish origin.”
During World War I, he emigrated to New York, where he conducted research on the use of vitamins for medicinal purposes. In 1920, he obtained US citizenship. In 1923, he returned to Poland thanks to Ludwik Rajchman, who, as a representative of the League of Nations, first persuaded Funk, and then the Rockefeller Foundation, to provide Funk with adequate remuneration. As the head of the biochemistry department of the National Institute of Hygiene in Warsaw, he worked, among others on isolating insulin. He studied the influence of vitamin B1 on carbohydrate metabolism and studied nicotinic acid.
In 1928 he went abroad again, this time to France. He worked at the Casa Biochemica Institute in Paris until the beginning of World War II. In 1940 he returned to the USA, where he remained until the end of his life. There, he collaborated with several pharmaceutical companies, which used his scientific discoveries and experiences. He is the author of several hundred scientific publications. He died in Albany, the capital of New York State, at the age of 83. Since 1995, the Polish Scientific Institute of America has annually presents the award named after him to scientists of Polish origin.