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The process was based on work done by Nicholas Appert (1749-1841) a French confectioner, who in 1809 was awarded a prize by Napoleon Bonaparte for his process of preserving food by heating it inside hermetically-sealed glass jars.
This process was developed by Bryan Donkin, an Englishman, who obtained a patent for his "canning" process in 1810, using tins instead of Appert"s glass jars.
Provisioning ships was revolutionised. Before this time, seamen in particular, had had to devise elaborate measures to feed themselves at sea. A Frenchman sailing to the Far East in 1690 recorded that "the ship is a farmyard". In cages and pens on deck were two cows, eight bullocks, six calves, twelve pigs, twelve geese, twenty-four sheep, twenty-four turkeys, thirty-six pigeons, forty-eight ducks and 500 hens.
Today, food is sealed into its container, and placed in a pressure cooker that holds its temperature as high as 250F for as long as three hours, completely sterilizing the contents of the can.
Canning was the first process to free man from his dependence on any one harvest. Modern shoppers are generally advised not to keep canned goods for more than a year; but this is excessively cautious, as commercially-controlled canning is remarkably safe; it has been for years. Back in 1939, two cans of roast veal canned in 1824 for an early artic expedition were opened by trustees at a London museum. Nobody quite dared to eat the contents, so it was fed to a dozen rats over a period of ten days, and did them no harm. See also "Donkin; Bryan"; "Pasteur, Louis (1822-1895)"