Artificial Sweetener Stories

I was told the story of how Splenda was discovered by my professor in swim conditioning class several semesters ago. But I had no idea that every artificial sweetener has something of an interesting discovery story connected to it! I grabbed these from Wikipedia, but each one has credible sources. For each of these success/luck stories, I wonder how many similar events have happened where more dangerous chemicals have been ingested by scientists and didn’t have such good results.

Saccharin was first produced in 1878 by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist working on coal tar derivatives in Ira Remsen’s laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University. The sweet taste of saccharin was discovered when Fahlberg noticed a sweet taste on his hand one evening, and connected this with the compound which he had been working on that day.

Cyclamate was discovered in 1937 at the University of Illinois by graduate student Michael Sveda. Michael Sveda was working in the lab on the synthesis of anti-fever medication. He put his cigarette down on the lab bench, and, when he put it back in his mouth, he discovered the sweet taste of cyclamate.

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet and Canderel) was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized aspartame in the course of producing an antiulcer drug candidate. He accidentally discovered its sweet taste when he licked his finger, which had become contaminated with aspartame, to lift up a piece of paper.

Sucralose (Splenda) was discovered in 1989 by scientists from Tate & Lyle, working with researchers Leslie Hough and Shashikant Phadnis at Queen Elizabeth College (now part of King’s College London). While researching ways to use sucrose as a chemical intermediate in non-traditional areas, Phadnis was told to test a chlorinated sugar compound. Phadnis thought that Hough asked him to taste it, so he did. He found the compound to be exceptionally sweet.

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