1749 - 1841
“Father of Canning”by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Before the Frenchman became known for his inventions, Nicholas Appert tried his hand at many occupations. He began as a hotelkeeper, became a brewer, switched to chef and later was a confectioner in Paris.
Appert’s most famous invention was mind boggling for his time and took him possibly 15 years to perfect. He discovered the process that kept foods from spoiling. This invention was prompted by Napoleon Bonaparte’s offer of 12,000 francs to the man who could invent a useful way of preserving food for his army. At the time, food spoiled easily and because of this, the soldiers suffered. Nicholas Appert experimented with various packaging techniques and eventually found that food wouldn’t go “bad” when sealed in an airtight container and soaked in hot water for a few hours. He closed the bottles or jars with cork, wire, and sealing wax in order to keep air out of his bottles. After Nicholas discovered to key to protecting food, he sent bottles of partridges, vegetables, and gravy to Napoleon’s army. Napoleon awarded Appert with the money when his troops tasted the freshness of Appert’s successful invention. After sending the bottled food, Appert reportedly said “every one of which had retained its freshness, and not a single substance had undergone the least change at sea.” Napoleon said, “ an army marches on its stomach.” Apparently this was true because the troops were able to march longer distances and eat better with Appert’s bottled food.
After receiving his award money, Nicholas Appert built a bottling factory so that he could easily supply others with preserved food. His factory burned down in 1814 during Napoleon’s Wars.
In 1811, Appert published a book revealing his method for preserving food. His book was called "L'Art De Conserver, pendant plueieurs annes, Toutes les Substances Animales et Vegetales" Translated, that means The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances For Several years. Though the title wasn’t very catchy, the book sold in abundance. His invention had been a success, yet he never was able to explain why his method worked.
Nicholas Appert’s invention was tremendous; however, there is very little documentation on his personal and spiritual life. In this case, the invention appears to be more important than the inventor.
“Appert, Nicholas.” New Standard Encyclopedia 1993 ed.
Can Manufacturers Institute. Dec. 2003. <http://www.cancentral.com/brochure/invention.htm>
Nicholas Appert. Brooklyn College. December 2003. <http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/ahp/MBG/MBG4/Appert.html>.
The History of Can Making. Dec. 2003. <http://www.cancentral.com/canc/nontext/history.htm>