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Benjamin R. Jacobs

Benjamin Ricardo Jacobs, Ph.d. (March 15, 1876 — February 1, 1962) was born to Spanish parents in Chile and later became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry and concentrated upon what now would be called biochemistry, studying food and nutrition. He developed the process for enrichment of milled grains, cereals, and flours establishing the standards for the processes and overseeing their application among the producers of the products. Enriched flours of refined grains and cereals now are common in the diets of humans. He also identified the nutritional characteristics of foods eaten in the daily diet of humans, and discovered the chemical processes that were entailed in the transformation of raw materials into foods through preparation and cooking. Providing useful guidelines, he described methods to retain as much of the nutrition in foods as possible during the growing, processing, cooking, and serving of food.


Before Jacobs was twenty-seven years old, he had established a successful scientific laboratory in San Francisco and was conducting his own research, when on April 18, 1906, his laboratory was destroyed during the earthquake and the resulting fires that created one of the nation's greatest disasters and destroyed many parts of the city. His equipment and all records of his research were lost.

Relocating to Washington, D.C., Benjamin R. Jacobs joined the federal agency, the Bureau of Chemistry of the United States Department of Agriculture, with which he had a long association. Some of his work was under the auspices of in the Food Control Laboratory of the department. During this time he also participated in the Distribution Division of the United States Food Administration, which was formed to deal with daunting issues regarding food distribution during the First World War. He participated for a great portion of the existence of the division to the withdrawal of the principal license regulations. In 1917 a federal war time food control act was passed when crop failures in Europe laid the burden of feeding the populations of both continents, the British Isles, and the armies of the allies—upon the United States. This effort intervened in the supply and demand process that always had functioned in the market place for food, both in the supply process and in the profits taken, to assure that both civilians and the armed forces had enough food to survive the famine that was threatening to develop, even establishing a rationing system and the control of prices.

Among the personal notes about members of what is now the American Chemical Society, in the November 1920 issue of the Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, is an announcement that Jacobs was leaving the federal government. He re-established his own laboratories, the National Cereal Products Laboratory, with facilities in Washington, D.C. and Manhattan. He remained as a consultant, however, to the Bureau of Chemistry throughout his lifetime. Jacobs also was retained throughout the rest of his life by Muller's Noodles to oversee the nutritional enrichment of their macaroni, noodles, and pasta products as they developed the nationally distributed brand that is still a recognized leader in the food industry.

Benjamin R. Jacobs was a member of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who often presented reports about his research before their members in national and regional meetings and was a frequent contributor to their scientific journals, Science and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. His research also was reported in other scientific publications of the day such as the American Food Journal and he served as the president of the American Noodle and Macaroni Association.

His daughters, Irene and Millicent, were born to his first wife, who died when they were young children. After raising his daughters as a single father, he married a native of Washington, D.C., Margaret Ann Connell, who was an assistant to Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor. In order to have his new wife travel world-wide with him as he did for enjoyment as well as for his professional activities, according to her niece, Marie Connell, he wanted Margaret to resign her work. Reluctant to give up her professional career, she required that he would have to pay her salary, with annual increases, for the rest of her life—totally above any household or joint expenses! They maintained residences at the Kennedy Warren in Washington, D.C., in the historic College Park section of Orlando, Florida, in Essex Fells in New Jersey, and in Kennebunkport, Maine. At the age of eighty-three, he died in Orlando, Florida and, following services in Washington, D.C., he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Margaret Connell Jacobs was buried with him upon her death a decade later.


  • Food and the War: A Textbook for College, United States Food Administration. Collegiate, Part I, K. Blunt and F. Powdermaker, Food and the war; Part II, E. C. Sprague, A laboratory manual of food selection, preparation, and conservation, 1918
  • War Time Control of Distribution of Foods, Albert N. Merritt, Ph.D., member of the staff of the United States Food Administration, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1920
  • Personal Notes, Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, volume 12, number 11, page 1137, November, 1920
  • Self-rising Flour, What is it?, Benjamin R. Jacobs, Ph.D., American Food Journal, volume 17, number 5, New York : May, 1922
  • General Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Charles L. Parsons, Science, New Series, volume 56, number 1436, pp. 21-30, July 1922
  • Announcements, Science, New Series, volume 139, number 3557, pp. 818-819, March 1963
  • Memoirs, Marie Connell, Washington, D.C., 2006
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Benjamin_R._Jacobs". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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