Several people were—and still are—involved in the sugar industry. Each person playing a unique role brings us to the way the sugar industry currently operates.
David Lee Child studied the beet sugar industry and later received a silver medal for the first manufacture of the sugar in the United States. During his work as a pioneer, he also published The Culture of the Beet and the Manufacture of Beet Sugar. He was born in Massachusetts on July 8, 1794 and dies in September of 1874 (5).
Ebenezer Herrick Dyer was named the “father of the American beet sugar industry”. Although many beet sugar mills had been established, Dyer realized sugar was being
imported from other countries. He initially experimented with seeds from Germany to decide whether the land in California was appropriate for growing sugar beets. Partnering with a chemist, Dyer appeared in the sugar industry in 18699. He had a few sugar factories in California and Wisconsin making a few tons of sugar. One of the factories was the first factory to use diffusion battery in America (3).
Andreas Sigismund Marggraf (1709-1782) was a chemist of Germany who discovered beet sugar which led to modern sugar development.
During his career in the sugar industry, he experimented with red and white beets and sugar crystallization. He noticed that he got the largest quantity and the most pure sugar from white beets. His most significant role in the sugar industry was him being the first to solidify and extract sugar from beets (1).
Franz Karl Achard was a German chemist and pioneer who came up with a process to produce table sugar from sugar beets. His refineries were less expensive and made it more available to all people. He is also responsible for opening the first beet sugar factory in Central Europe (4).
Robert Maynard was the inventor of the horse-drawn wheel lifter used in the sugar industry. He designed it between 1923 and 1924 and used it particularly for digging sugar beets, in England’s marshland type soil particularly (6).
Norbert Rillieux was born a free man on a New Orleans plantation to a slave mother and a wealthy white father. His father was involved in the cotton industry and had a plantation. At the age of 24, Rillieux became an applied mechanics instructor at the top engineering school in France—L’Ecole Centrale. After years here, he returned to his father’s plantation, which was now utilized to process and refine sugar.
The sugar refining process in Louisiana was fairly new at this time and was therefore rather dangerous and inefficient. At this time, the process was referred to as the “Jamaica Train” in which the sugarcane would be boiled in open kettles and strain for the juice to be separated. Workers were responsible for transporting the boiling juice from kettle to kettle, risking being burnt severely from thrilling temperatures. Also, this process was expensive due to vast amounts of fuel that was used to heat kettles.
In the 1830’s, a steam-operated pan vacuum was made known to France. This pan was bounded in an area with air removed in order for the liquids to boil at a lower temperature which also reduce cost. Seeing this, Rilleux figured he would improve this tool to include two more pans which would be heated by its predecessor.
His grand idea led to Edmund Forstall, a New Orleans sugar manufacturer, persuading him to take a position as Chief Engineer. Almost immediately after Rilleux accepted the position, Forstall and Rilleuz’s father got into a serious argument. Out of respect for his father, Rilleux stepped down from the company. Years later, he was hired to improve a plantation refinery. Doing this, he was able to implement his invention and later patened it in 1843. His new refinery invention was extremely successful and helped improve efficiency, safety, and quality in the sugar industry (2).Roscoe Zuckerman was the inventor of the beet harvester that used a rotating brush topper. This machine was used more so for experimental harvesting and never made it to the commercial distributing level (6).
(1) “Andreas Sigismund Marggraf.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/364678/Andreas-Sigismund-Marggraf>
(2) Benfey, Christopher. “French Creoles | Norbert Rillieux.” Welcome to Frenchcreoles.com. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.frenchcreoles.com/norbertrillieux.html>.
(3) Raymundo, Myrla. “History: Origin of Street Names in Union City.” Tri-City Voice Newspaper. Web. 21 Apr. 2012. <http://www.tricityvoice.com/articlefiledisplay.php?issue=2010-08-24>.
(4) “Franz Karl Achard.” The 1911 Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Franz_Carl_Achard>.
(5) Deerr, Noël. The History of Sugar. London: Chapman and Hall, 1949. Print.
(6) Armer, Austin A. “Historical Highlights in Sugar Beet Harvest Mechanization.” Journal of Sugar Beet Research. 13.4 (1964): 321,324. Web.