If you love Doritos, Kraft Mac and Cheese, or powdered cheese popcorn, you can thank Samuel Percy.
On this date in 1872, Dr. Percy patented the process to create dried (or powdered) milk, which eventually gave rise to all that delightful stuff we consume today.
And while, yeah, the stuff isn’t as good for you as diet of roots and leaves, the conditions that gave rise to Percy’s patent came from a pretty Upton Sinclair–like situation that was much more disgusting. (And hey, we aren’t bunnies, either! A little powdered cheese ought to spice things up every so often!)
It all came to pass, as so many things do, in New York. As the city expanded, dairies got farther and farther away, and in pre-refrigeration days, that created problems for getting the product to the consumers. Some enterprising swindlers figured out a way to keep cows in the city and stuff them with subpar grain leading to so-called swill milk, which was then doctored with all kinds of crap to make it look whiter and thicker. (Dianne Durante has a great piece on this at the link—and offers a pretty good warning on the raw milk issue, while she’s at it.) Percy and others set out improve the quality of milk, and thus such innovations as spray drying and pasteurization were developed and embraced.
(Incidentally, Percy also gets credit for suggesting cocaine as an analgesic. The man had a thing for powdery white substances, I guess.)
I can’t find much on Percy himself, other than he died in 1890. But obviously, the effects of his work lived on, for good and bad.