Norbert Rillieux was an inventor and a chemical engineer. He invented the multiple effect evaporator under vacuum. He contributed to the production of better quality sugar by discovering that latent heat would improve results and lower prices.
Rillieux was born on March 17, 1806 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born a free man. His mother was a slave, but his father was a rich, white engineer for a cotton industry. Rillieux was educated in Paris, France.
He became an instructor of mechanics at the age of 24. He returned home to his father’s cotton industry in 1834.
Sugar was dominant throughout Louisiana, but the labor was dangerous and inefficient.
The steam operated single pan vacuum was introduced in the 1830s. Rillieux then decided to add on another pan, and a third one to improve the efficiency.
Theodore Packwood hired Rillieux to improve his plantation refinery. Rillieux then patented the triple evaporation pan system in 1843. The success of his pan system improved sugar refining, and the quality.
Around the 1850s, Rillieux, planned to improve the sewer system, and drain swamp lands in Louisiana to prevent further outbreak of yellow fever. His former employer, Edmund Forstall, was against Rillieux’s plan.
Rillieux became even more disgusted with racism in the south, and decided to move back to France. He spent the rest of his life there inventing.
He died on October 8, 1904.