Brown Bag Lecture: Masters of Flavor: Sensory Analysis and High-Industrial Food

Lunchtime Lectures
Monday, October 3, 2016
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk with Ingemar Pettersson, one of our 2016–2017 Doan Fellows. 

Flavor is a complex biochemical property that encompasses the range of sensory impressions generated when someone bites into a piece of food. For the producers and industrial scientists this combination of tactile reactions, sound, smell, and taste has been a great challenge to master. In the mid-20th century the issues related to food flavor resulted in the formation of a new field of industrial research called sensory analysis. The field stands out in the history of science due to the subjective nature of the matter it targeted and for the range of ingenious methods developed to turn flavor into stable and generalizable data. Sensory analysts used professional tasters, test panels, machinery that emulated the human senses, and laboratory devices like mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. In his talk Pettersson will discuss how the field emerged, what systems of experimental methods were used, and how historical studies of sensory analysis might shed light on how the flavor of food changed during the high-industrial era.

Ingemar Pettersson is a postdoc researcher at the Science and Technology Studies Center and the Department of Economic History at Uppsala University. He holds a PhD (2013) in the history of technology and is specialized in the politics, cultures, and practices of industrial science, primarily in 20th-century Sweden. At the Institute he will work on a project on the emergence of industrial flavor science, that is, knowledge production on the assemblage of chemical, physical, psychological, and cultural processes that constitute the flavor of food products. In the mid-20th century “sensory analysis” became an articulated field of industrial flavor science, and the aim of the project is to study how it was formed internationally with certain attention to the experimental methods used, for instance, taste experts, human test panels, and laboratory devices. The work at the Institute will contribute to a larger project that examines the changing notions of “good” flavor through close empirical studies of flavor engineering in the Swedish food industry.