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Norbert Rillieux: American Inventor

Norbert Rillieux (March 17, 1806-October 8, 1894) was an African-American inventor and engineer who invented a device that revolutionized sugar processing. Rillieux's multiple effect vacuum sugar evaporator (patented in 1864) made the processing of sugar more efficient, faster, and much safer. The resulting sugar was also superior. His apparatus was eventually adopted by sugar processing plants all around the world.

Rillieux was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. His mother had been a slave and his father was a wealthy white sugar plantation owner. Norbert's brilliance was noticed early in his life. He was educated in Paris, France, and later taught engineering in Paris. Rillieux published many steam engineering papers.

While in Paris, Rillieux learned that the boiling point of liquids is reduced as the pressure is reduced (like in a vacuum). Rillieux applied this to the processing of sugar, heating the cane sugar in a vacuum, and re-using the steam in the processing procedure. This resulted in a highly efficient mechanical process that replaced the old, laborious, dangerous, and costly method of processing sugar by hand that was called the "Jamaica train."

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1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada
Guidelines on Writing a Report on an Invention





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