It is impossible to set a date as to the first time fermentation was performed. It is possible, however, to guess, and this guess is roughly 8,000 years ago. Wine has been written about for centuries, in the Greek and Roman myths and scriptures. The Greek god of wine, Dionysius, was in charge of the fermentation atop Mount Olympus. The people of this time may not have known exactly what they were doing, but it was a somewhat complicated procedure. The crushing of grapes, and the storing of their juices led to an amazing beverage that is still used in current society. This process of fermentation was used throughout the time of early Christianity, and other religions, for purposes within sermons. Throughout the Renaissance, fermentation was used in the making of wine as well as bread, not to mention new medical applications. Fermented products were brought to America along with the new settlers. With new government, though, America was put into a prohibition, which did not last long. Today, fermentation processes are carried out nearly perfectly, without too large of variations among the products.
Although fermentation has been known of for at least 8,000 years, in 1865 Louis Pasteur was the scientist who really discovered the process of fermentation. At this time, Pastuer was the Dean and professor of chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences in Lille, France. He was originally asked by a friend to investigate difficulties he was having manufacturing alcohol by the fermentation of beetroot. Often, instead of alcohol, the fermentations were resulting in lactic acid. At that time, fermentation leading to the production of wine, beer, and vinegar was believed to be a simple and straightforward breakdown of sugar to the desired molecules. It was believed that the chemical breakdown of sugar into alcohol during the fermentation of wine and beer was due to the presence of inherent unstabilizing vibrations. Yeast cells were found in the fermenting vats of wine and were known as living organisms, yet they were only believed to be either a product of fermentation or catalytic ingredients that provided useful ingredients for fermentation to proceed.
The brewers of wine, beer, and vinegar were having horrible times with quality control. Yields of alcohol might suddenly fall off; wine might unexpectedly grow ropy or sour or turn to vinegar;...
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...s that the fermentation leading to the creation of ethanol has made billions and billions of dollars in profit, along with giving millions of people jobs. It is amazing that something that has had such a large impact on the world (as the fermentation of ethanol has) begins on the molecular level.
1. Abedon, Stephen T. “Glycolysis and Fermentation”. http://www.phage.org/biol1095.htm, July 29, 2000.
2. “Alcohol Fermentation”. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000.
Harden, Arthur. Alcoholic Fermentation. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., 1932.
3. Boyer, Rodney. Concepts in Biochemistry. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1999.
4. “Cellular Respiration and Fermentation”. http://fhis.gcal.ac.uk/bio/micro/drjrattray/cab2/cab2resp.htm#Fermentation, July 30, 2000.
5. “Chemical of the Week – Ethanol”. Chicago Tribune (online); http://www.scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/ethanol/ethanol.html, July 29, 2000.
6. Harden, Arthur. Alcoholic Fermentation. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., 1932.
7. “What is Ethanol?”. Ace Page Links, http://www.ethanol.org/ethanol_info2.html, July 27, 2000.
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