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Food: Inventions and Inventors

bar codeBAR CODE
Bar codes (also called Universal Product Codes or UPC's) are small, coded labels that contain information about the item they are attached to; the information is contained in a numerical code, usually containing 12 digits. UPC's are easily scanned by laser beams. UPC's are used on many things, including most items for sale in stores, library books, inventory items, many packages and pieces of luggage being shipped, railroad cars, etc. The UPC may contain coded information about the item, its manufacturer, place of origin, destination, the owner, or other data. The first "bullseye code" was invented by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, from work which they began in 1948. On October 20, 1949, they patented their bullseye code (a series of concentric circles that were scannable from all directions, using regular light). Woodland and Silver patented a new UPC in October 1952; the UPC was also improved and adapted by David J. Collins in the late 1950's (to track railroad cars). UPC's were first used in grocery stores in the early 1970's.
BREAD SLICER
The automatic commercial bread slicer was invented in 1927 by Otto Frederick Rohwedder from Iowa, USA (Rohwedder had worked on his machine since 1912). His machine both sliced and wrapped a loaf of bread. In 1928, the bread slicer was improved by Gustav Papendick, a baker from St. Louis, Missouri.
BURBANK, LUTHER
Luther Burbank (1849-1926) was an American plant breeder who developed over 800 new strains of plants, including many popular varieties of potato, plums, prunes, berries, trees, and flowers. One of his greatest inventions was the Russet Burbank potato (also called the Idaho potato), which he developed in 1871. This blight-resistant potato helped Ireland recover from its devastating potato famine of 1840-60. Burbank also developed the Flaming Gold nectarine, the Santa Rosa plum, and the Shasta daisy. Burbank was raised on a farm and only went to elementary school; he was self-educated. Burbank applied the works of Charles Darwin to plants. Of Darwin's The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Burbank said, "It opened up a new world to me."
CAN AND CAN OPENER
A metal can (or canister) for preserving food was invented in 1810 by a Peter Durand, of London, England. Metal cans (also called tins) could preserve food for a long period of time. To open a can, a person had to use a hammer and chisel; the can opener wasn't invented for another 50 years.

The can opener was invented in 1858 by Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut, USA. Warner's device used a lever and chisel. Until then, cans were opened using a hammer and chisel; the can opener was invented 50 years after the metal can was invented.

The can opener was improved in 1870 by William Lyman of West Meridian, Connecticut, USA. Lyman's device used a rotating wheel and a sharp edge. His can opener only fit one size of can, and first had to pierce the center of the can.

The modern-day type of can opener (using a serrated wheel) was invented in 1925.

CARBONATED WATER
People have been drinking naturally-carbonated water (water with carbon dioxide bubbles) since pre-historic times. The English chemist Joseph Priestley experimented with putting gases in liquids in 1767, producing the first artificially-produced carbonated water.

In 1770, the Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a device for making carbonated water from chalk and sulfuric acid.

CARVER, GEORGE WASHINGTON
George Washington Carver (1865?-1943) was an American scientist, educator, humanitarian, and former slave. Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans, and soybeans; his discoveries greatly improved the agricultural output and the health of Southern farmers. Before this, the only main crop in the South was cotton. The products that Carver invented included a rubber substitute, adhesives, foodstuffs, dyes, pigments, and many other products.

For more information on Carver, click here. For a cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activity on Carver, click here.

CHOCOLATE CHIPS
Ruth Wakefield invented chocolate chips (and chocolate chip cookies) in 1930. Wakefield ran the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Her new cookie invention was called the "Toll House Cookie." Her original cookies used broken-up bars of semi-sweet chocolate.
COCA-COLA
Dr. John Stith Pemberton (1830-1888) was an American pharmacist, soldier, and inventor. He invented Coca-Cola on May 8th, 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He had invented many syrups, medicines, and elixirs before, including a very popular drink called French Wine of Coca, which contained French Bordeaux wine, coca leaves, and caffeine (from the kola nut).

When Atlanta banned alcohol consumption in 1885, Pemberton had to change the formula of his French Wine of Coca, omitting the French wine. He added sugar, citric acid and essential oils of many fruits to the drink, and the original Coca-Cola was created. It was named for its main ingredients, coca leaves and the kola nut. Coca-Cola quickly became a very popular soda fountain drink.

Pemberton became partners with Frank Robinson and David Roe, but the partners soon began to quarrel and Pemberton soon sold his interest in Coca-Cola. The formula for Coca-Cola is a closely-guarded secret.

COTTON CANDY
Cotton candy is a soft confection made from sugar that is heated and spun into slim threads that look like a mass of cotton. It was invented in 1897 by William Morrison and John C. Wharton, candymakers from Nashville, Tennessee.

For more information on cotton candy, click here.

CRUM, GEORGE
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was still unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!

For more information on George Crum and potato chips, click here.

DUTCH CHOCOLATE
Coenraad Johannes Van Houten (1801-1887) was a Dutch chemist and chocolate manufacturer who in 1828 invented the process that is used to turn roasted cacao beans (the source of chocolate) into cocoa powder (this process is now called Dutching, Dutch processing or alkalinisation). His method was an inexpensive way of removing much of the cocoa butter from the nib (center) of the beans, using a hydraulic press, and adding alkaline salts (potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate) so that the cocoa powder would mix readily with water or milk (the alkali neutralized the acidic chocolate). The resulting cocoa powder can be used to make chocolate milk and other delicacies.
HOT DOGS
Hot dogs began as sausages sold in buns. They were first sold from carts by German immigrants on the streets of New York City in the 1860s. The bun replaced a plate and made the hot dog easier to carry and eat. Sauerkraut was provided as a relish on the hot dog.
KOOL AID
The powdered drink Kool-Aid was invented in 1927 by the chemist Edwin Perkins of Nebraska Omaha. Perkins started a company in 1914 that sold perfume and calling cards; it was called the Perkins Products Company. Originally located in Hendley, Nebraska, they moved to Hastings, Nebraska (about 90 miles west of Lincoln) in 1920, and expanded their product line to include spices, medicines, more toilet preparations, and other household items.

Kool-Aid was originally a liquid called "Fruit Smack," and was sold in a 4-ounce bottles. It was later renamed Kool-Ade (and later, Kool-Aid), and sold in powdered form in packets. The seven original Kool-Aid flavors were: Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Grape, Orange, Root Beer, Strawberry, and Raspberry. The Kool-Aid factory later moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was bought by General Foods Corporation in 1953.

LIFE SAVERS
The candy called "Life Savers" was invented in 1912 by Clarence Crane, a chocolate maker from Cleveland, Ohio. His original Life Saver was a life-preserver-shaped peppermint candy called "Pep-O-Mint." Crane designed it as a summer candy - one that would not melt in the summer heat. He bought a pill-making machine to make the candies, and then punched a hole in the middle. Since they looked like little life preservers, he called them Life Savers. In 1913, he sold the rights to his candy to Edward Noble for only $2,900. Noble then sold Life Savers in many flavors, including the original peppermint. There are now 24 flavors; they are manufactured in Holland, Michigan.
MARSHMALLOW
Marshmallow candy was first made by ancient Egyptians over three thousand years ago. The Egyptians made candy from the root of the marshmallow plant (Althea officinalis), a plant that grows in marshes. Today's marshmallows do not contain any mallow root - gelatin is substituted for the sweet, sticky root.
MAYONNAISE
Mayonnaise was invented in France hundreds of years ago, probably in 1756 by the French chef working for the Duke de Richelieu, The first ready-made mayonnaise was sold in the US in 1905 at Richard Hellman's deli in New York. Hellman sold his wife's mayonnaise in open wooden boats. In 1912, he sold the mayonnaise in large glass bottles; the type he called "Hellman's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise" was very popular and is still sold today (it is now owned by Best Foods).
MECHANICAL REAPER
1931 McCormick reaperCyrus Hall McCormick (February 15, 1809 - May 13, 1884) was an American inventor (of Irish descent) who developed the mechanical reaper. His new machine combined many of the steps involved in harvesting crops, greatly increased crop yields, decreased the number of field hands needed for the harvest, lowered costs, and revolutionized farming.

For more information on McCormick, click here.

MICROWAVE OVEN
The microwave oven was invented as an accidental by-product of war-time (World War 2) radar research using magnetrons (vacuum tubes that produce microwave radiation). In 1946, the engineer Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer, who worked for the Raytheon Corporation, was working on magnetrons. One day at work, he had a candy bar in his pocket, and found that it had melted. He realized that the microwaves he was working with had caused it to melt. After experimenting, he realized that microwaves would cook foods quickly - even faster than conventional ovens that cook with heat. The Raytheon Corporation produced the first commercial microwave oven in 1954; it was called the 1161 Radarange.

For more on the microwave oven, click here.

PASTEUR, LOUIS
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French chemist and inventor. Pasteur studied the process of fermentation, and postulated that fermentation was produced by microscopic organisms (other than yeast), which Pasteur called germs. He hypothesized that these germs might be responsible for some diseases. Pasteur disproved the notion of "spontaneous generation " which stated that organisms could spring from nothing; Pasteur showed that organisms came form other, pre-existing organisms. Applying his theories to foods and drinks, Pasteur invented a heating process (now called pasteurization) which sterilizes food, killing micro-organisms that contaminate it.
POPSICLE
The popsicle was invented by 11-years-old Frank Epperson in 1905. Epperson (1894-?) lived in San Francisco, California. Epperson had left a fruit drink out overnight (with a stirrer in it), and it froze, making a new treat. His frozen treat was originally called the Epsicle. Epperson got a patent on his "frozen ice on a stick" many years later, in 1923. The Epsicle was later renamed the popsicle. Epperson also invented the twin popsicle (with two sticks so it could be shared by two children), Fudgsicle, Creamsicle and Dreamsicle.
POTATO CHIPS
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was still unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!

For more information on George Crum and potato chips, click here.

REFRIGERATOR
The first method of refrigeration (cooling air by the evaporation of liquids in a vacuum) was invented in 1748 by William Cullen of the University of Glasgow, Scotland; Cullen did not apply his discovery to any practical purposes. Michael Farady, an English physicist liquefied ammonia to cause cooling (in the 1800's). Faraday's idea would eventually lead to the development of compressors, which compress gas to liquid form. The American inventor Oliver Evans designed the first refrigeration machine in 1805. In 1844, John Gorrie, an American doctor from Florida made a device based on Evans' invention that would make ice in order to cool the air for yellow fever patients.

The first electric refrigerator was invented in 1803 by Thomas Moore. The first commercial refrigerator designed to keep food cold was sold in 1911 (by the General Electric Company) and in 1913 (invented by Fred W. Wolf of Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA); these model consisted of a unit that was mounted on top of an ice box. A self-contained refrigerator (with a compressor on the bottom of the cabinet) was invented by Alfred Mellowes in 1915. Mellowes produced this refrigerator commercially (each unit was hand made), but was bought out by W.C. Durant (the president of General Motors) in 1918, who started the Frigidaire Company in order to mass-produce refrigerators in the USA.

RILLIEUX, NORBERT
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.

For more information on Rillieux, click here.

SANDWICH
The sandwich was invented by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). About 1762, he is reputed to have been too busy to have a formal meal, and instructed his cook to pack his meat inside the bread to save him time - and the sandwich was invented.
TEABAG
Tea bags were invented by Thomas Sullivan around 1908. The first bags were made from silk. Sullivan was a tea and coffee merchant in New York who began packaging tea sample in tiny silk bags, but many customers brewed the tea in them (the tea-filled bag was placed directly into the boiling water where the tea brewed, instead of the traditional way of brewing loose tea in a teapot). Later tea bags were made of thin paper.
bar codeUNIVERSAL PRODUCT CODE
Universal Product Codes (also called UPC's or bar codes) are small, coded labels that contain information about the item they are attached to; the information is contained in a numerical code, usually containing 12 digits. UPC's are easily scanned by laser beams. UPC's are used on many things, including most items for sale in stores, library books, inventory items, many packages and pieces of luggage being shipped, railroad cars, etc. The UPC may contain coded information about the item, its manufacturer, place of origin, destination, the owner, or other data. The first "bullseye code" was invented by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, from work which they began in 1948. On October 20, 1949, they patented their bullseye code (a series of concentric circles that were scannable from all directions, using regular light). Woodland and Silver patented a new UPC in October 1952; the UPC was also improved and adapted by David J. Collins in the late 1950's (to track railroad cars). UPC's were first used in grocery stores in the early 1970's.
VAN HOUTEN, COENRAAD
Coenraad Johannes Van Houten (1801-1887) was a Dutch chemist and chocolate manufacturer who in 1828 invented the process that is used to turn roasted cacao beans (the source of chocolate) into cocoa powder (this process is now called Dutching, Dutch processing or alkalinisation). His method was an inexpensive way of removing much of the cocoa butter from the nib (center) of the beans, using a hydraulic press, and adding alkaline salts (potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate) so that the cocoa powder would mix readily with water or milk (the alkali neutralized the acidic chocolate). The resulting cocoa powder can be used to make chocolate milk and other delicacies.
WAKEFIELD, RUTH
Ruth Graves Wakefield (1905-1977) invented chocolate chips (and chocolate chip cookies) in 1930. Wakefield ran the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Her new cookie invention was called the "Toll House Cookie." Her original cookies used broken-up bars of semi-sweet chocolate. Her cookbook, "Toll House Tried and True Recipes," was published in 1940.

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