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Fermentation Science: History of Fermentation Science

Early Fermentation

Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food processing known today. Many of mankind's favorite food and beverages are products of fermentation, whether organically or induced, such as beer, wine, bread, sausages, and various sauces & marinades.

There are several different types of fermentations that can occur in food and liquids: alcoholic fermentation, acetic acid fermentation, and lactic acid fermentation.

  • Alcoholic fermentation is possibly the most well known of the three types, its byproducts having been enjoyed by human civilization for millennia.
  • Acetic acid fermentation is the process that begins where alcoholic fermentation ends. The most common result of this fermentation process is vinegar. 
  • Lactic acid fermentation is thought to be the oldest fermentation method, with fermented milk products being found in nearly every culture world-wide, and evidence of their consumption going back thousands of years. (see timeline)

Louis Pasteur: A Timeline

Louis Pasteur was a French physicist & chemist who's lifetime of discoveries changed science as we know it. 
Making breakthroughs in fields such as crystallography, microbiology, fermentation science, and etiology, he contributed more in his lifetime than many before him. 
Some of his prominent discoveries were: 

  • his disproving of Spontaneous Generation and the discovery of microbes (his germ theory)
  • the introduction of the Pasteurization Method
  • the creation of vaccines & immunizations

The death of patient Jules Rouyer sparked a series of controversies that spanned the globe. Many scientists wanted to prove that Pasteur's method wasn't ready, or was completely false. However, Pasteur solidly argued & proved his case time & time again, keeping his vaccination method widely accepted.

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Fermentation Time Line

Cheese production in Iraq 7000 BCE
Wine making in the Near East 6000 BCE
Yeasts' properties are discovered in Egypt & used in leavened bread & wine making 4000 BCE
Fermented milk products became part of the human diet in many regions 2000-12000 BCE
Barley is fermented & turned into beer in Sumer 1750 BCE
Meat sausages were beginning to be prepared in Babylon 1500 BCE
Chinese regions began to use moldy soybean curd as an antibiotic 500 BCE
Vegetable preservation by fermentation is used in China 300 BCE
Cereal-legume based foods are developed 500-1000 CE
First whiskey distillery founded in Ireland 1276 CE
Sauerkraut & yoghurt begin to be fermented 1500 CE
Pasteurization developed by Louis Pasteur 1851 CE
Defined cultures are used in fermentation processes 1900-1930 CE
Probiotic cultures & bacteria used in mainstream foods 1970- present