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Antoine Augustin PARMENTIER

French Antoine Augustin PARMENTIER

French promoter of the potato as a food source in France and throughout Europe

Source :  Bruno SINET

Born: on August 12, 1737 in Montdidier, France
Died: on December 17, 1813 in Paris, France


Biography

While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years' War, he was captured by the Prussians, and in prison in Prussia was faced with eating potatoes, known to the French only as hog feed. The potato had been introduced to Europe as early as 1640, but (outside of Ireland) was usually used for animal feed. King Frederick II of Prussia had required peasants to cultivate the plants under severe penalties and had provided them cuttings. In 1748 the French Parliament had actually forbidden the cultivation of the potato (on the ground that it was thought to cause leprosy among other things), and this law remained on the books in Parmentier's time.

From his return to Paris in 1763 he pursued his pioneering studies in nutritional chemistry. His prison experience came to mind in 1772 when he proposed (in a contest sponsored by the Academy of Besançon) use of the potato as a source of nourishment for dysenteric patients. He won the prize on behalf of the potato in 1773.

Thanks largely to Parmentier's efforts, the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared potatoes edible in 1772. Still, resistance continued, and Parmentier was prevented from using his test garden at the Invalides hospital, where he was pharmacist, by the religious community that owned the land, whose complaints resulted in the suppression of Parmentier's post at the Invalides.

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See Also :

- Category Sciences - Other