The Napoleon III Butter Substitute Prize
Promoter: Napoleon III
Prize: Patent provided
Winner: Hippolyte Mège-Mouriés
The resurrection of Napoleonic France under Napoleon III was a time of considerable economic and scientific expansion. Pharmacist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriés was at the forefront of this flurry of research, being awarded Légion d'honneur in 1861 for discovering a 14 per cent increase in the yield of bread from flour.
In 1862, he began working with fats, so by 1869, when the government of Napoleon III offered a patent for a cheaper substitute for butter, he introduced his mixture of beef tallow and skimmed milk. The early title of ‘Economic Butter’ didn’t catch on, but the name ‘Margarine’ did.
Mège-Mouriés was awarded the valuable patent, and in 1873, he secured another and began production in the USA. His impact was global, and his legacy lasting; on his death in 1880, he was buried in the famed Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.