How fizzy drinks were invented in Leeds on this day 250 years ago

Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley

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On this day, 250 years ago, the world was changed forever.

Countless generations of teeth would never be the same again after Joseph Priestley made a startling invention in Leeds: fizzy drinks.

Working in a university lab in Leeds, Priestley worked out a way to infuse water with carbon bubbles, thus creating fizzy water - which would go on to become a base for Coca Cola, Pepsi and countless other soft drinks.

In 1767, Joseph Priestley discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide when he suspended a bowl of water above a beer vat at a local brewery in Leeds.

The air blanketing the fermenting beer—called 'fixed air'—was known to kill mice suspended in it.

Priestley found the water had a pleasant taste, and he offered it to friends as a cool, refreshing drink.

In 1772, Priestley published a paper titled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air in which he describes dripping "oil of vitriol" (sulfuric acid) onto chalk to produce carbon dioxide gas, and encouraging the gas to dissolve into an agitated bowl of water. Priestley referred to his invention of soda water as being his "happiest" discovery.

In the late eighteenth century, J. J. Schweppe (1740–1821) developed a process to manufacture carbonated mineral water, based on the process discovered by Priestley, founding the Schweppes Company in Geneva in 1783.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Cheers!

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