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Nicolas François Appert

inventor of the food canning process

Nicolas Francois Appert

Nicolas Appert was born on November 17, 1749. He was a chef, confectioner, and distiller in the town of Châlons-sur-Marne when, in 1795, the French Directory offered a prize to anyone who could develop a new method of preserving food in such a way that the product was easily transportable. He spent the next fourteen years working on the problem until, in 1810, he was ready to claim the prize of 12,000 francs. The next year, as a condition of the award, he published a description of his system as The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years.

Appert's basic discovery was that decomposition could be prevented if food was sealed inside glass bottles or jars so that all air was excluded. The jars with their contents then had to be immersed in boiling water for several hours, stoppered with corks that were held in place with wire and then sealed with sealing wax. The system worked, even though no scientific explanation as yet existed to account for why it should. It took another 50 years for another Frenchman, bacteriologist Louis Pasteur, to discover that the boiling killed the bacteria responsible for decomposition of food.

Appert used his prize money to establish the world's first bottling and canning factory; the House of Appert continued in business until 1933. He went on to develop a method of extracting acid-free gelatin, and the prototype of the modern meat-stock cube, as well as to perfect a type of steam sterilizer.

In 1942, the Chicago Section of the Institute of Food Technologists established the Nicholas Appert Award, which is given annually to recognize lifetime and consistent achievement in food technology.

Anthony Feldman and Peter Ford Scientists and Inventors, The People Who Made Technology from Earliest Times to Present Day New York: Facts on File, 1979

Louis Pasteur

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This page was last updated on November 16, 2017.