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British Industrial History

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Nicolas Appert

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Nicolas Appert was born on 17 November 1749 at Châlons-sur-Marne (present Châlons-en-Champagne), and died on 1 June 1841 at Massy.[1]

Appert invented the method of preserving food by heating it and sealing it in containers which excluded air. He is sometimes described at 'the father of canning', but this is slightly misleading, as Appert used glass bottles, while others later developed his ideas in order to preserve the food in hermetically-sealed tin-plated canisters (hence 'cans').

Appert wanted the world to benefit from his discovery, so he did not patent it. He was awarded a prize of 12,000 francs by the French Government, on condition that his findings were made freely available. This resulted in 1810 in the publication of L'Art de Conserver pendant Plusieurs Années Toutes les Substances Animales et Végétales, which was translated into several languages.

The following information is condensed from 'Bryan Donkin - The Very Civil Engineer 1768-1855'[2]

The story of how Appert's invention led to the commercial production of food preserved in tinned canisters by Bryan Donkin and John Hall (of Dartford) is complicated, and involves Philippe de Girard and Peter Durand.

Apparently Girard claimed the invention of the food preserving process, and he persuaded Peter Durand to patent it in England. This Durand did, clearly stating that the idea had been communicated to him 'by a person residing abroad'. There were others who made claims for the development of the process, including Thomas Saddington (who may have picked up Appert's ideas while in France), and Augustus de Heine, who applied for a patent in England shortly before Durand.

Durand's patent covered a variety of types of container, including tinplate, and he successfully preserved food in sealed tinned containers. However, he quickly sold his patent to John Hall for £1000, Hall enlisted the help of Bryan Donkin and John Gamble, who went on to develop the process, resolving the problem of how to solder the lids, and going on to produce canned food under the firm of Donkin, Hall and Gamble from 1813. Their factory in London was visited by Appert, who became convinced of the superiority of tinned cans.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Wikipedia
  2. 'Bryan Donkin - The Very Civil Engineer 1768-1855' by Maureen Greenfield and Russ Day, Phillimore Book Publishing, 2016