March 17


March 17, 1806 Norbert Rillieux, engineer and inventor, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a Creole from a prominent family, Rillieux had access to education and privileges not available to many other blacks. In the early 1820s, he travelled to Paris to attend school, studying physics, mechanics, and engineering. He became an expert in steam engines and published several papers about the use of steam to work devices. At the age of 24, he became the youngest teacher at the school. While in France, Rillieux started researching ways to improve the sugar refining process and after returning to the United States in 1833 he began to develop a machine for which he was granted patent number 3237 on August 26, 1843. The multiple-effect evaporation system that he devised addressed all of the shortcomings of prior sugar refining processes and by 1849 thirteen Louisiana sugar factories were using his invention. His invention was an important development in the growth of the sugar industry. Rillieux returned to France in 1850 where he died October 8, 1894. A Children’s book, “Sugar Makes Sweet Norbert Rillieux Inventor,” was published in 1994.


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