Brown Bag Lecture: “‘The Art in Imitation Flavors’: Flavor Chemistry and Scientific Craft”

Brown Bag Lecture icon
Date: November 27, 2012
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Nadia Berenstein

This talk will consider changing American tastes between the late 19th century and the 1960s by looking at the people responsible for making flavors: the technicians, pharmacists, and chemists who developed, compounded, and manufactured synthetic flavor additives for use by the rapidly expanding food and beverage industry. In particular, Berenstein’s research describes the emergence of the “flavorist” as a scientific craft profession—one whose members defined themselves not only in terms of chemical expertise, techno-scientific mastery, and corporate affiliation but also creativity and craftsmanship. Using handbooks and manuals for flavor production as well as material from the Society of Flavor Chemists, Berenstein considers recruitment, apprenticeship, and professional development among flavor chemists in an era when the science of flavor was dramatically transformed by the introduction of new instrumentation, including gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectroscopy.

By examining the professional lives of flavorists, this discussion will shed light on changing social and cultural understandings of natural and artificial, synthetic and organic, and of flavor itself—as well as the role of scientific knowledge in defining “good taste.”

Nadia Berenstein is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she calls the Department of History and Sociology of Science home. In the past she has written about the disappearance of the passenger pigeon, the electrocution of Topsy the elephant, and the phenomenon of birds fatally colliding with buildings. Her most recent work documents the history of flavor chemists and flavor additives in the United States.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

Register for an event link

Need Meeting Space?

CHF’s state-of-the-art conference center is in Philadelphia’s beautiful historic district.

Brown Bag Lecture Series

Enjoy a bring-your-own brown-bag lunch while listening to CHF scholars share their research.

Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.