Edmond Albius – Inventor of the Vanilla Pollination Method– Edmond Albius, was born in 1829 in Sainte Suzanne, Réunion Island that is adjacent to Madagascar Island. He is a prominent figure in the world of agriculture for discovering how to pollinate the vanilla plant. It’s quite startling because of his background because he is just a slave. But from this method that he found, the vanilla plant can produce a lot of fruit. Historically, his journey was pathetic. Edmond Albius was born as a slave and left by his mother, Mélise, since his birth. However, the French nobleman, Ferrol Bellier Beaumont, adopt him and afterward became his slave.
History of Vanilla
Broadly speaking, the vanilla plant is a plant that comes from the Mexican Territory. The Totonac people in Mexico who inhabited the Veracruz region, Mexico are considered to be the first tribes to cultivate this plant in the 15th century. This tribe dried the fruit of this vine and used it as a spice for thousands of years.
In 1400, the Aztecs invaded this region and began to cultivate this plant. They call it the Nahuatl term tlilxochitl, or “black flower”. In 1519, the Spaniard Hernán Cortés (a nobleman and explorer) introduced it to Europe and called it “small pod / small pod, or vanilla. In 1703, a French botanist named Charles Plumier later named it “vanilla“.
Over time, vanilla has become increasingly popular in Europe and many people used it for their needs. Anne of Austria, who was the daughter of the King of Spain i.e. Philip III, drank it with hot chocolate. Queen Elizabeth I of England also ate it with pudding. However, with the increasing demand for vanilla, the supply is a shortage. Many difficulties happened at that time to boost vanilla production. This is because there is no effective way to produce large amounts of vanilla pod per plant.
Early Discovery of Edmond Albius and His Journey
Over the centuries, many experts/scientists have tried to produce its fruit. At that time, this type of plant is very difficult to bear fruit so many people are competing to solve this problem. A plant expert named Charles François Antoine Morren then tried to cross this plant but it doesn’t work. Until finally, a 12-year-old boy, Edmond Albius, discovered the method of crossing vanilla by hand in 1841. This discovery eventually became a factor that played a role in the widespread distribution of vanilla plants in the world.
This discovery was motivated by Edmond’s relationship with Fereol Bellier Beaumont. Ferrol loves plants and has an abundant collection including vanilla plants. Edmond has enthusiasm in studying plants and had a high curiosity. In the Fereol garden, there is vanilla that age was about 10 years old but it can’t bear fruit (sterile plant). Edwin Albius then tried to cross this plant using a bamboo stick the size of a toothpick. This method is commonly used by vanilla farmers/cultivators all over the world.
The presence of several pods that appeared startled Fereol. Edmond confessed to his boss that he had crossed it. Ferreol initially did not believe the way that Edwin Albius does. But as more and more fruit is produced, he begins to believe in it.
As a result of this incident, Ferreol then was invited many other vanilla landowners to see the method of mating vanilla. Edmond Albius demonstrated directly to them. As a result of this discovery, a lot of vanilla managed to bear fruit so that he had many invitations to travel to various places in various parts of the world to teach how to cross vanilla. Of course, the longer the vanilla production is increasing from time to time.
After this discovery he made and his contribution to vanilla farming, not everything was going well for him. There are bad things that still happen to him. When he left the farm and headed for an urban area, he was accused of theft for which he was imprisoned. However, after 3 years in prison, Ferreol managed to free him.
To date, his findings have certainly boosted world vanilla production. There is a shocking economic impact. Many products in the world use vanilla as raw material. Vanilla become green gold because it has a high price in the market. Products made from chocolate, soda-based drinks (Coca-cola, Pepsi), health products, beauty products, and candles are some examples of product outputs that use vanilla in the manufacturing process.
The life story of Edmond Albius ended on August 9, 1880, at the age of 51 years. Even though he was a slave with all his limitations, he had helped build the world’s vanilla industry with his inventions. Creating delicious food and drinks for its consumers.
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Source Reference Edmond Albius – Inventor of the Vanilla Pollination Method
Ashton, K. 2015. How a Child Slave Created a Billion-Dollar Business. Accessed via https://medium.com/galleys/the-child-slave-changed-the-world-3493b5ab1ba8 on February 10, 2021.
Krulwich, L. 2015. The Little Boy Who Should’ve Vanished, but Didn’t. Accessed via https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/06/16/the-little-boy-who-shouldve-vanished-but-didnt/ on 11 February 2021.
Wikipedia.2020.Edmond Albius. Accessed via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond_Albius on 17 February 2021.