Photo: Google
Photo: Google

Who is Eva Ekeblad? Google honors woman who made alcohol from potatoes

The next time you have a vodka cranberry in hand, be sure to raise your glass to the woman who first paved the way for vodka distillation: Eva Ekeblad.

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The Swedish scientist, honored with a Google Doodle Monday on what would have been her 293rd birthday, was a trailblazer for female scientists.

Here are five things to know about Ekeblad:

She used potatoes to make flour and alcohol and helped solve Sweden’s food crisis.

Before Ekeblad, potatoes were actually considered inedible for humans and were reserved for animals.

When she extracted starch from potatoes as part of an experiment, she discovered the food could not only be used to create alcoholic drinks, but a form of flour as well.

This was during a time when Sweden was suffering a shortage of oats and barley, both necessary for the country’s food and alcohol supplies, according to the Telegraph.

“Eva discovered the starch was humble but mighty – potatoes could be ground into flour or distilled into spirits. Her discovery helped reduce famine in years to come,” Google noted.

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She was the first woman to join the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In 1748, 24-year-old Ekeblad was elected to the honorable Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, an independent, non-governmental organization that prides itself in “promoting the sciences and strengthening their influence in society,” for her work with potatoes.

After Ekeblad, there wouldn’t be another woman to join the academy until Austrian nuclear physicist Lie Meitner in 1951.

Ekeblad was married to a count double her age.

At age 16, Ekeblad (born Eva De La Gardie) married Count Claes Claesson Ekeblad and during their 31-year marriage, they had seven children.

Her sister-in-law stopped the last witch trial in Sweden.

In 1758, Ekeblad’s sister-in-law Catherine Charlotte De La Gardie helped put an end to the last witch hunt in Dalarna, Sweden.

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According to her biography, she was awarded a medal after offering legal assistance to the victims of the witch hunt and making sure they were fairly compensated for their suffering.

De La Gardie is also regarded as the person who publicly introduced the smallpox vaccination in Sweden. The vaccine was officially introduced in 1756, it wasn’t fully accepted until De la Gardie used the vaccine on her own children and other farmers followed suit.

She died at age 61.

Ekeblad, who lived her life among Sweden’s nobility, died on May 15, 1786, in Mariedal, Sweden, after she was bedridden with poor health.

Her scientific achievements influenced a legacy in the culinary arts.

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