Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dauglish, John

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1214755Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 14 — Dauglish, John1888William Jerome Harrison

DAUGLISH, JOHN, M.D. (1824–1866), inventor of aërated bread, was born in London on 10 Feb. 1824. He was the third son of William and Caroline Dauglish; his father's family came from the Scottish border, while his mother could trace her descent from Sir Richard Baker [q. v.] William Dauglish was possessed of considerable literary and artistic taste and was long in the employ of one of the large East Indian houses ruined by the commercial panic of 1847. The son's mechanical talents were inherited from his mother, to whose management he owed much. John Dauglish went to Dr. Alexander Allen's school at Hackney, but it was found necessary to allow him to study alone. His bent of mind was thoroughly mathematical and practical. He was fond of model-making, and while still very young he constructed an excellent model steam-engine; when a little older he invented a really capital paddle-wheel. He was disappointed by finding that the principle was already patented, but was consoled by seeing the excellent working of the machine of his predecessor. His parents were too poor to give him a technical education, or enable him to accept a place as pupil in a large engineering firm in Liverpool. He passed a few months in his father's office, but the uncongenial work injured his spirits and his health. He engaged in literary work, and contributed an able article to the ‘British Quarterly’ on the labour question. A short sketch in verse, entitled ‘A May Morning's Walk,’ appeared in Hogg's ‘Instructor’ for 1851. In 1848 Dauglish married the second daughter of William Consett Wright of Upper Clapton. In 1852 a friend advised Dauglish to study for the medical profession, and in that year he removed to Edinburgh. The next four years were spent in the medical schools of the university there, his boyish difficulties still confronting him. He failed in theory and technical language, although in the practical tasks of dissecting and of working with the microscope he shone conspicuously. In 1855 Dauglish took his M.D. degree, his thesis being bracketed with one other for the gold medal.

In November 1855 Dauglish left Edinburgh and came to London. He had found the Scotch bread insipid, and being also a sufferer from dyspepsia, he had made the bread for his own household while in Edinburgh, thus gaining an insight into the practical details of bread-making. Dauglish's work in chemistry had taught him that it is easy to produce carbonic acid gas without the agency of yeast, and he invented a plan for doing away with the fermenting process in the ‘sponge’ and in the dough, which at the same time avoided continued personal contact of the materials with the skin of the workman. The labours of Dr. Richardson and other sanitary reformers between 1855 and 1865 showed with what labour and want of cleanliness much of the bread in our large cities was produced. Dauglish proposed to remedy all this by the use of machinery. In his leading idea Dauglish had been anticipated by others, though he appears to have been unaware of the fact. In 1816 Professor Thomas Thomson of Glasgow showed that as the only object of fermentation in bread-making was the production of carbonic acid gas, the same result could be obtained by the use of carbonate of soda and muriatic acid. In 1836 Luke Hebert actually took out a patent for manufacturing bread by machinery, in which he employed water charged with carbonic gas to raise the dough. But practical details were defective, and the result was a failure.

In 1856 Dauglish took out his first patent for ‘an improved method of making bread.’ Several improvements were afterwards effected. The rapidity of the process in its perfected form is remarkable. Within forty minutes after the two sacks of flour (weighing 560 lbs.) are placed in the mixer, there are produced, tinned, and placed in the oven, four hundred two-pound loaves. Its main advantages are cleanliness, rapidity, and the absence of fermentation; alum is not required, nothing is wasted, and ‘wholemeal,’ or ‘brown’ bread, can be made as easily as white bread. Less labour is required, and under healthier conditions. Dauglish sought the co-operation of Messrs. Carr & Co., biscuit makers of Carlisle, to carry his invention into practical effect. A model machine for the manufacture of ‘aërated bread’ was erected in their factory in 1856, and the first experiments were perfectly successful. Other firms took up the project, but difficulties arose, especially with the workmen, when the scheme was applied on a large scale. Dauglish gave up the struggle in despair, and began to practise as a physician. After a year or two he determined to make another effort, and set up a bakery in Islington in 1859. In the following year he read a paper on his system before the Society of Arts, for which he was awarded a silver medal, and from this time the success of the ‘aërated’ bread was secured. Several leading London physicians and sanitary reformers approved his principle; the aërated bread was introduced into several hospitals, a company was formed for its manufacture, and it has ever since had a large and increasing sale. In ordinary fermented bread alcohol is produced within the dough by the action of the yeast plant, though it is subsequently dissipated by the heat of the oven. The bakers took advantage of this by placarding the neighbourhood of the aërated bread factory with ‘Buy the bread with the gin in it.’ Dauglish's health was injured by the labour and excitement of introducing his invention between 1859 and 1863. He visited several health-resorts, and in August 1865 was taken seriously ill in Paris. He returned with difficulty to England, and tried residence in Malvern. His strength was broken, and he died painlessly on 14 Jan. 1866. He was buried at Malvern Wells.

[Dr. Richardson's Healthy Manufacture of Bread; information from several surviving members of Dr. Dauglish's family.]

W. J. H.