Clarence Birdseye (1886 - 1956) American inventor

He Put our Meals on Ice

Inventor Clarence Birdseye is known for his pioneering in food refrigeration processes. While working as a fur trader on the Labrador Peninsula from 1912 to 1916, he was struck by the ease with which food could be preserved in an Arctic climate. When the Brooklyn-born biologist returned from Canada, he tried to imitate the Eskimo process of quick freezing: items frozen at such a speed that only small ice crystals are able to form, causing the cell walls to stay intact, and the frozen food, when defrosted, keeping it's maximum flavour, texture, and colour.

"A naturalist and keen observer, Birdseye spent hours watching Inuits fish, noticing how their catch would freeze almost instantly upon emerging from the icy sea. What intrigued him was that the fish remained flavorful and flaky when thawed - even months later. He doused barrels of fresh cabbage in salt water, exposed them to freezing winds and eureka! Mealtime would never be the same."
Time Magazine (The quote at the top is from their Time 100 ranking)

Birdseye found out that the process could be imitated between two refrigerated metal plates. To market his products, the former biology student founded the General Sea Foods Co. in 1924. The inventor created the Quick Freeze Machine in 1925 and with that he revolutionized the frozen food industry.

A true inventor instead of businessman, he was almost bankrupt near the end of the 1920s. He sold his company to General Foods in 1929. When his foods were first released onto the market in 1930, the selection of foods ranged from frozen peas, spinach, and cherries, to fish and several kinds of meat. It would make Birdseye a wealthy man, but he stayed the inventor he used to be, holding almost 300 patents in the end.

There's a history behind Birdseye's typical surname. As the legend goes, one of Clarence's ancestors had valiantly earned the name Birds Eye when he saved the life of an English Queen by shooting an attacking hawk squarely through its eye. The Birds Eye company (which he founded after selling General Sea Foods) still exists. You can find the corporate site at

"I do not consider myself a remarkable person. I am just a guy with a very large bump of curiosity and a gambling instinct."

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