Black Inventors and Innovators - Norbert Rillieux
In honor of Black History Month I have decided to do a series on Black Inventors and Innovators. There are so many Black inventors that I believe deserve to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. I am certain that I will leave some out. I am hopeful that I will do some justice to those who had amazing insight, drive and desire; those who have not been truly acknowledged for their concepts and discoveries. This is a journey for me as well since this is something that I never learned growing up. This was not something that was taught in school. I believe the only Black inventor I learned about in school was George Washington Carver and although he is very significant in our history there are many more who are just as important. I also feel that this is important information for my children who are helping me through this experience with their input and research. I am so happy that my children are just as curious as I am and this has been a really fun and very interesting undertaking.
The first inventor/innovator in my series is Norbert Rillieux. Norbert Rillieux was born March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana and died October 8, 1894 in Paris France. Rillieux was born a free man even though his mother was a slave. His father was a wealthy white plantation owner. The plantation had cotton fields and was also used to process and refine sugar. Sugarcane at the time was the dominant crop in Louisiana but the refining process was very inefficient, expensive and extremely dangerous. Rillieux invented a safer and less expensive way to turn sugarcane into sugar. His method improved the quality of sugar and made it more affordable when previously sugar was a very rare and expensive treat. Rillieux created a multiple-effect evaporator which was a way of evaporating water and it changed sugar refinery. With the evaporator sugar factories were able to produce large quantities of sugar more efficiently, in less time and for less money. With the old way the sugarcane had to be boiled at incredibly high temperatures and the boiling water had to be transferred from kettle to kettle making the chances of severe burns incredibly high. With the evaporators lower temperatures were used to separate the juice from the sugarcane. Rillieux’s invention definitely changed the way sugar was and is processed.
As I drink my sweetened tea and eat my snickerdoodle cookie I really have thank Norbert Rillieux for his invention.