Who Beet the Sugar Cane?
Franz Karl Achard
Copyright: Wikepedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Karl_Achard
Franz Karl Achard was the man behind the project to find an alternative to sugar cane, by using beet sugar instead.
Franz was a German, born in Berlin in 1753. Franz studied many subjects at the Royal Academy of Sciences, although his real passion was the refining of sugar, of which he became passionate about because of his Stepfather’s interest in it.
In 1747 he struck gold when he discovered that sugar beets contained sugar. He then decided to plant these sugar-bearing plants in the garden of his Manor house in Kaulsdorf in Berlin. Unfortunately, the Manor house burnt down. However, in 1796 he managed to perfect an industrial process of extraction of beet sugar. The Institut de France however did not care, and would not support him. He did find financial support in 1802 from the Prussian King Frederick William III. Franz used these funds to build a sugar factory in Silesia.
King Frederick William III
The factory went on to produce over 400 tons of beet – a lot! Franz ran out of luck again when the factory was burnt down in 1806 by Napoleon’s war. in 1810 he built a smaller version.
The sugar business was moving rapidly because of a sugar cane ban by Napoleon, meaning the increase of sugar beet in Germany.
The English tried to bribe Franz with money, asking him to say his discoveries were a failure, but he refused.
Sugar was no longer a luxury product and a lot of people were buying it. Franz also decided to teach people to grow beet themselves, and to increase the number of beet growers.
After Franz’s death in 1821, his businesses were kept alive by Matthias Christian Rabbethge, a German sugar beet grower. I’m sure he would be happy to hear the success of his discovery still live on!