Invention of Can

Invention of Can

Peter Durand.

You may have heard the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention." So in the case of no problem, there would be no demand to solve and consequently, no idea is created to introduce to the market as a welcomed idea. A simple example of this subject is canned!

With the modernization of life and the relatively limited time of people for cooking, using processed and canned foods as a replacement for home-cooked foods has been common in most modern societies. You come home, tired and hungry, after a little thought about what food to fill your stomach, you take out the can of the cupboard and after heating it, you start eating it. But you might guess that the situation was different in the past. To be more precise, canned foods was invented in response to the constant wars and starvation caused by successive conflicts.

After the French Revolution and while this country was involved in a series of wars with neighboring countries, in 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte awarded a prize of 12,000 francs to a person who found a way to feed the country's soldiers in long-term campaigns. Napoleon called for a new method that was able to preserve foods for a  long period of time without its spoilage. A French confectioner, Nicolas Appert (1749 –1841), was able to respond to this national demand in the shortest possible time!

Before the 12,000-franc prize was awarded, Apart had thought of finding a way to preserve food for a longer period of time. After Napoleon calls, his thoughts got focused on the problem than ever before to find a solution for this requirement. Since 1795, he began examining different methods of food preservation and got successful results in preserving some foodstuffs, such as juices, dairy products, jams, and syrups. Finally, in 1804, Appert's creative mind provided the ultimate solution. He thought of pouring various food items into glass bottles and closing their lids with special cork and completely sealing them thereby. Heating of these glass vessels caused a delay of the spoilage of the material inside the glass and thus the first canned food was produced. Two years later, Appert presented a collection of canned fruits and vegetables at the French Industry Fair, which was not well welcomed. Then, in 1810, with the release of Appert's new technology, the French government offered to pay him 12,000 francs in exchange for making his invention public. Appert accepted the offer and published a book on his work process and how to preserve food. This book, entitled "L'Art de conserver les substances animals et végétales" or " The Art of Preserving All Kinds of Animal and Vegetable Substances for Several Years" is the first cookbook in the field of modern food preservation methods, it was published in 200 copies. Interestingly, Nicolas Appert's invention was introduced to the public before Louis Pasteur's great discovery of bacteria-killing by heat. He established a company and started selling food products in canned glasses. The innovative method of Appert, described in his book, was so simple and practical that it quickly spread among the public. Studies show that until one century later, the production of cans was done in the same way and in a very limited way. But the most interesting fact followed by this apparently simple, but still very important invention, was the efforts of a British businessman to develop and commercialize it.

Peter Durand (1766 –1822) modified the invention of the Appert, or perhaps it is better to say, he efforts to own it. The biggest difference in Durand's innovative technology was the use of thin sheets. Appert, who was aware of the low quality of tin sheets in France, deliberately abandoned this option and in contrast, Durand used this strategy to simplify the process of producing canned foods.

Peter Durand filed his invention in England to further protect it. As a result, he was granted patent no. 3372, the first patent for the preservation of food using metal cans, on August 25, 1810, by King George III of England. It should be noted that Nicolas Appert had previously patented his invention in France, and it seems that Durand's idea had come from France. He explicitly stated that the main idea of ​​the invention was told to him by a friend abroad. Historical evidence shows that this person was a French guy named Philippe de Girard (1775 –1845).

However, in practice, the first patent for metal cans belongs to Peter Durand. Durand did not seek direct exploitation of his invention, and in 1812 assigned his patent for 1000 pounds to two Englishmen, Bryan Donkin (1768 –1855) and John Hall (1765 –1836).

Donkin was active in the tin and iron sheets industries since 1808 and after getting the idea, his activities ​​expanded to the food industries. He set up his commercial canning factory with John Hall and produced his first canned goods for the British Army. Interestingly, these two optimistic entrepreneurs were aware of the importance of intellectual property rights and after acquiring Peter Durand's patent, they also purchased Nicolas Appert’s patent, which was patented in France. Food cans came to the United States in 1818, and almost from the beginning of the 1820s, canned foods were a recognized article in Europe and the United States.