Herbert McLean Evans, who discovered vitamin E in 1922, invited a faculty colleague to lunch to help him name this alcohol that was necessary for laboratory animals to bring their offspring to birth.
Evans, a professor of anatomy at the University of California in Berkeley, was being urged by his colleagues to name the substance. “I promptly invited George M. Calhoun, our professor of Greek, to luncheon in Berkeley in our small Faculty Club,” he recalled.
Calhoun asked him what the substance does. “It permits an animal to bear offspring,” Evans replied.
“Well, ‘childbirth’ in Greek is tocos,” said Calhoun, “and if it confers or brings childbirth, we will next employ the Greek verb phero. You have also said that the term must have an ending consonant with its chemical–‘ol,’ being an alcohol; your substance is ‘tocopherol’.”
from J Nutr. 1985 Jul;115(7):837-41. Gladys Anderson Emerson (1903-1984). A biographical sketch. Folkers K.