Genevieve Wanucha

In 1895, William Lyman Underwood, director of a Massachusetts canned-food company, came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) seeking the help of a scientist—any scientist—who could fix the problem of his smelly canned clams. He went straight to the biology department, asking whether anyone could “suggest a cause and, better still, a remedy.” The department chair passed Underwood off to his assistant, Samuel Cate Prescott, advising the chemist to teach the canner a bit about microbe…

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