Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame

Inductees

Dr. Alexander P. Anderson - 1982 Inductee

(1862 - 1943) Anderson was a botanist, educator, and the inventor of the process for making puffed cereals. His interest in starch grains began as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota studying the chemistry and physical structure of starch. His initial research dealt with the effect of heat and pressure on the free hygroscopic moisture in starch granules. For his first experiment, he took six glass tubes, sealed one end of each tube, placed them in an oven and heated them until the contents began to change color from white to a slight yellowish brown. The tubes were taken out of the oven and cracked with a hammer. As each tube was cracked, a sharp explosion, much like a gun shot, took place. On examination, he found that the corn starch granules in one of the tubes had exploded into a white, puffed mass.

A few days later, rice was treated in the same way and puffed into a product now as Puffed Rice. Likewise, wheat, barley, buckwheat, millet, and many other seeds. A thousand or more glass tubes were sealed up, heated and exploded. Almost every seed known was tried during the winter of 1901-1902.

Out of the test tubes experiments evolved the process for making puffed cereals with what have properly been called guns. Guns loaded with rice or wheat are moved on carriages into the ovens for heating and rotation. While in the ovens, high pressure and super-heated steam in injected into the guns. This process completed, the cap ends are removed, and the grain is "shot" out.

Puffed Rice was introduced to the public in 1904, when a battery of eight guns was set up at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. All that summer Dr. Anderson shot large quantities of puffed rice from the guns which were distributed to the curious by pretty girl attendants. The novel method of manufacture naturally aroused intense interest. A poster at the Fair described Puffed Rice as "The Eighth Wonder of the World." Among Fair visitors the product won popularity as a confection. People at first classed it with pop corn. Large quantities were sold to candy manufacturers. But, after a year of extensive advertising, the public was educated to eat puffed rice for breakfast with cream and sugar. With clever advertising as "the food shot from guns," Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat quickly became very popular and commercially profitable ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

Dr. Anderson conducted more than 15,000 experiments perfecting these and other cereals. For over 40 years he worked at the Quaker Oats Company designing and engineering the complicated machinery needed to produce puffed cereals on a commercial scale. He received 25 United States patents and foreign patents from 14 countries.