Born Mar 17 1806 - Died Oct 8 1894
Automated Sugar Refining
Patent Number(s) 4,879
Norbert Rillieux revolutionized the sugar industry by inventing a refining
process, evaporation in multiple effect, that is still in use today
not only for the production of sugar, but also of soap, gelatin, condensed
milk, and glue, as well as for the recovery of waste liquids in factories
Rillieux's system, in which a series of vacuum pans heat one another
in sequence, had immediate impacts. First, it replaced a dangerous,
labor intensive process known as the "Jamaican Train;" in
which slaves were required to transfer boiling cane juice from one cauldron
to another. The new process also produced a higher-quality product while
using less fuel. These improvements in efficiency catapulted the U.S.
into a leading role in global sugar production and helped transform
sugar from a luxury item to a commonplace one.
Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans, the son of a white engineer
and a freed slave. He studied applied mechanics at the Ecole Centrale
in Paris, but returned to New Orleans in the 1830s. As the status of
free blacks deteriorated in the South, he went back to Paris, where
he lived until his death. In 2002, the American chemical society designated
the invention of the multiple effect evaporator under vacuum a National
Historic Chemical Landmark.