Some Milestones in Food Technology

Here are some milestones in food technology

18000 B.C.

Pottery Vessels

Invention of pottery vessels. The earliest vessels were probably used just for cooking before the development of impermeable ceramics made them suitable for long-term storage. (“Dishwasher safe” is, however, still a work in progress.)

7500 B.C.

Agricultural Revolution

The beginning of the agricultural revolution. Raising crops allowed people to shift away from a migratory existence. Due to this there was time available for all sorts of other ideas to occur to us, setting the stage for civilizations to develop.

6000 B.C.


The regular flooding of the Nile river started the process of artificial irrigation. Basin irrigation, in which water channels were allowed to flood but prevented from draining began.

2500 B.C.


The Sumerians create the first pesticide, in the form of sulfur, which was dusted on crops. (No historical evidence is available on whether this was followed by a demand for appropriate cuneiform-tablet labeling.)

1500 B.C.


The development of aquaculture in China focused on carp, leading to the accidental creation of the goldfish and the later emergence of the concomitant toilet-side funeral service.

475 A.D

The horse collar

After its invention in China, the introduction of the horse collar to Europe about 400 years later led to the horse becoming the go-to source of animal labor, replacing oxen as plow animals and leading to higher food production levels.

900 -1300 A.D.

Crop rotation

Sustainable agriculture took a huge leap forward with the introduction of three-field crop rotation, resulting in the one fact about medieval farming that modern school children are likely to retain into adulthood.

1799 A.D.

Steam-powered farm machines

The slow industrialization of agriculture started with the introduction of fixed steam-powered machinery for threshing wheat. Making this machinery more and more portable would lead to the first farm tractors.

1810 A.D.


Glass bottles were initially used for canning, but it was the Philippe de Girard’s invention of the tin can that really put this food technology on the map. The invention is often attributed to de Girard’s French friend Peter Durand, who secured the English patent on de Girard’s behalf, as France and England were inconveniently at war at the time.)

1836 A.D.

Gas stoves

The first gas stove factory opens. The stoves gave chefs a much greater degree of temperature control in cooking but would ultimately lead to the deep charcoal-versus-propane barbeque schism.

1849 A.D.

Artificial flavors

The advent of organic chemistry opened the door to artificial flavors, although not without some misfires, such as the promotion of nitrobenzene, once considered usable as a replacement for bitter almonds in confectionary with “perfect safety.” Alas, it’s now known to be a toxin capable of causing kidney, liver, and brain damage.

1851 A.D.


Artificial refrigeration made it possible to warehouse food for long periods of time and transport it over previously impossible distances, such as with the SS Dunedin, the first refrigerated cargo ship to be commercially successful. In 1882 it carried meat from New Zealand to London.

1855 A.D.

Can opener

Forty-five years after the invention of the tin can, the other shoe drops with the invention of the can opener.

1864 A.D.


The introduction of pasteurization was a huge leap forward for food safety, if something of a sad moment for cheese gourmets.

1879 A.D.

Artificial sweeteners

Saccharin, the world’s first artificial sweetener, is discovered by accident when chemist Constantin Fahlberg forgets his parents’ advice and doesn’t wash his hands properly before eating.

1889 A.D.

Instant coffee

Recent research shows that instant coffee, the bane and blessing of modern office life, was first created by David Strang in New Zealand—not, as previously believed, in 1901 by Satori Kato in Chicago.

And it goes on

1 thought on “Some Milestones in Food Technology”

Leave a Reply