Support us | Visit us | Contact us
13 September 2012
The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has today named the fridge, pasteurised milk, and the tin can as the three most significant inventions in the history of food and drink. These relatively modern innovations outscored more ancient inventions including the fishing net, the plough, and the cork.
You can vote for what you think is the best innovation ever on the Royal Society Facebook page.
The announcement is the outcome of a project which saw a steering group of Royal Society Fellows –including a Nobel Prize Winner – reduce a list of approximately 100 innovations down to just 20, chaired by Royal Society Treasurer Sir Peter Williams FRS. The shortlist was then voted on by Fellows of the Society and experts in the food and drink industry who 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 pasteurisation 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).
Commenting on the findings, Sir Peter Williams said:
“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. 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.”
Find out more about the great food and drink served at the Royal Society, as well as venue hire options at the Society's home on Carlton House Terrace.
The Top 20
Learn about our mission to expand the frontiers of knowledge.
Explore our annual science exhibition
A lack of diversity across the scientific community represents a large loss of potential talent to the UK according to the chair of the Royal Society’s Equality and Diversity Network (EDAN), Professor Edward Hinds FRS.
Scientists had little data on where sea turtles go when they swim out to sea after hatching. A study today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B reveals that they spend most of their time at the surface of the sea soaking up the heat of the sun to help them grow.
The Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a joint publication today that explains the clear evidence that humans are causing the climate to change, and that addresses a variety of other key questions commonly asked about climate change science.
For a full archive please see the news pages.
Latest press releases about our activities.
Announcements about articles in our journals.
There are about 1,450 Fellows and Foreign Members.
We have had 350 years at the heart of scientific progress.
Contact the Society's press team.