A Woman to Know: Eva Ekeblad

One of the few aristocratic women whose honor was considered untainted. — Marchioness de Puentefuertes

(image via Wikimedia)

Potatoes weren't native to Eva's Swedish home (they were originally brought over from the Americas), but as a noblewoman, she and her family often kept potatoes in greenhouses, to grow for cheaply and efficiently feeding cows and other livestock.

But in the midst of a famine in the 1740s, Eva discovered that the tubers were good for more than just animal feed. Experimenting entirely on her own — at the age of 24! — Eva wrote to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science that she had created a method of pulling starch out of potatoes, thereby turning the ordinary vegetable into something rather extraordinary: potato vodka.

Once Eva's discovery hit the market, important grains like barley, rye and wheat, which had once been set aside for alcohol production, were freed up to feed the masses, and Eva became the first female member admitted to the Royal Academy of Science ("fun" fact: the next woman wouldn't be admitted until 1951).

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