Article ID: CBB615221389

Becoming Natural: The Naturalization of Synthetic Flavors in the Twentieth Century and the Introduction of Konsumstoff (2023)


Is it possible that non-natural chemical substances become natural without changing their chemical, physical or physiological characteristics? The history of synthetic flavors with a special emphasis on vanillin suggests that yes, it is possible. This process is called naturalization and means in this case the change of status of a synthetic flavor to something natural. In this article the history of vanillin as a frequently used flavor and its transformation into a natural ingredient in the twentieth century will be presented and analyzed. Studying the particular characteristics of vanillin, it seems that known concepts in the history of science like Ersatzstoff (surrogate) or Wirkstoff (active agent) do not constitute the best fit in describing this flavoring agent. Categorizing vanillin as a Konsumstoff (commodity agent) seems more useful in order to classify its characteristics and its historical development. I suggest using Konsumstoff as a new theoretical and methodological approach to study the history of chemical substances. In this article, the concept of Konsumstoff will be outlined and developed using the vanillin case as a paradigmatic example.

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Authors & Contributors
Agar, Jon E.
Colace, Paola Radici
Gehrke, Hans-Joachim
Hersey, Mark D.
Ibáñez, Itsaso
Laubichler, Manfred Dietrich
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Technology and Culture
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Bulletin of the History of Archaeology
University of Pennsylvania Press
History of science, as a discipline
Philosophy of science
History of technology, as a discipline
Interdisciplinary approach to knowledge
Needham, Joseph
Sarton, George
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Boyle, Robert
Duhem, Pierre
Greenwell, William
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
19th century
17th century
20th century, late
United States
School of Milan

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