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Accum, Friedrich Christian (1769-1838)

German-born chemist, who did most of his work in London. In 1820 he published a book revealing his investigations into the diet of the times "Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons" - in this he showed that practically every basic foodstuff was being tampered with in a dangerous way, just so the supplier could increase his profit. These ranged from tea (often made from ash, elder or sloe leaves) & coffee through mustard & flour to beer & wine. His book gave methods of detecting the adulterations listed.

He followed this a year later with "Culinary Chemistry" - giving recipes for preparing good pickles and preserves.

He became librarian of the Royal Institution, but he was dismissed following accusations of embezzlement - for which he was acquitted. As these amounted to no more than using the blank end-papers of books as notepaper, it seems he was probably set-up by those he had financially damaged during his investigations. He returned to Germany, and became a professor at the Berlin Technical Institute, where he taught until his death.

Accum"s revelations took many years to sink in to the minds of politicians. Indeed, when another analytical chemist, John Mitchell, published "A Treatise on the Falsifications of Food, and the Chemical Means Employed to Detect Them", in 1848, it was clear that adulteration had increased enormously in the years since Accim"s book.

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards.

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