fizzIf you like bubbles in your water, you have Joseph Priestly to thank, reports Marc Levinson in The Wall Street Journal (12/16/13). According to Fizz: How Soda Shook Up The World, Priestly wrote a paper in 1772 called ‘Directions for Impregnating Water With Fixed Air,’ (pdf) which detailed "how water, chalk, and sulfuric acid could be shaken together in an apparatus made of glass, a pig’s bladder, leather pipe, cork and a quill to make fizzy water." He hoped the beverage would help prevent scurvy, which it didn’t. But that didn’t stop apothecaries from selling it to treat "kidney disease and ulcers."

Priestly’s early innovation "was soon improved by … Johann Jacob Schweppe," who carbonated "water drawn from Lake Geneva" and exported "it in stoneware bottles. He moved to London and began dispensing bubbly water from a machine outfitted with fake cranks and wheels … as mineral water became a fad in the 1820s, ‘Schweppes’ would become one of the first important brands." Meanwhile, in America, Benjamin Silliman "supplemented his meager income as Yale’s first chemistry professor by selling fizzy water by the glass, promoting it as healthful." Roll over, Walter White.

Silliman, however, "misjudged the desires of his customers," who were "keen on having somewhere to go that was fun and inviting," Marc Levinson writes. So, Silliman lost ground to "competitors who presented their soda fountains as pleasure palaces." This apparently was not lost on Coca-Cola, which "spent more than two decades fighting claims that it contained cocaine … and then claims that its name misled consumers into believing it contained cocaine when it did not." Today, Americans "seem to be turning away from fizz," with consumption "down about 16 percent since it peaked in 1998."


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