London, U.K. – In the history of food and drink, what would be the most significant invention?
The U.K.’s Royal Society, the country’s national academy of science, says it would have to be the refrigerator.
Just this week the society made the announcement after a steering group of Royal Society Fellows – including a Nobel Prize Winner – reduced a list of approximately 100 innovations in food and drink down to just 20.
The Fellows of the Society and experts in the food and drink industry judged each innovation on four criteria: accessibility, productivity, aesthetics and health.
The top three result from Anglo-French scientific successes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Artificial refrigeration was first demonstrated in Glasgow in 1748 and then produced commercially in 1805. The first pasteurization test was completed in France in 1862. And a British merchant patented the tin can in 1810 (although a year earlier a Frenchman applied a similar process with glass jars and cork).
“Royal Society Fellows have played vital roles in improving people’s lives for 350 years and science has a major role to play in meeting the global challenges of the 21st century,” says Sir Peter Williams, the society’s honourary treasurer, vice-president and chairman of the National Physical Laboratory, chaired the steering group.
“We thought it appropriate to look at how that innovation has shaped what we eat and drink. The poll reveals the huge role science and innovation have played in improving our health and our lives. This is something to which the scientific community continues to add.”
Here’s the top 20 list:
The Top 20
2. Pasteurisation / sterilisation
4. The oven
6. Threshing machine/combine harvester
8. Selective breeding / strains
9. Grinding / milling
10. The plough
12. The fishing net
13. Crop rotation
14. The pot
15. The knife
16. Eating utensils
17. The cork
18. The barrel
19. The microwave oven