- Born: 1856
- Marriage: Isabella JAQUES march quarter 1881 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 974
- Died: 1916 at age 60
• Before the introduction of table salt, household salt would have been broken from a block. Bowie's and Weddell's experiments transformed the use of salt in households
George Duncan Bowie qualified as a pharmacist in Edinburgh in 1886 after an apprenticeship at 141 Union Street, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. In about 1888 he went to Guernsey as an assistant to the States Analyst. It was there that he discovered 'Bowie's Phosphorated Table Salt'. Patent number 2055 of 1891 - Phosphorated salt as a food ingredient.
Bowie's discovery is described in Pharmaceutical Formulas (London 10th Ed. 1946, II). A carefully prepared mixture of phosphates was added to salt, reducing the chloride content and making the salt less prone to absorbing moisture.
At the time of his discovery the Dutch Indian Government were offering a prize of 10,000 florins to anyone to anyone who could produce a method of preparing and packaging dry salt - it seems that he was not aware of this as the prize was never claimed.
George Weddell qualified in Edinburgh and went to London and Paris for additional experience before joining Joseph Wilson Swan. He later became a proprietor, and the pharmacy traded as Mawson, Swan & Weddell. Weddell's own salt business was to take up his time and the pharmaceutical business was amalgamated with that of Proctor, Son & Clague becoming Mawson and Proctor Ltd.
Weddell improved Bowie's invention by estimating the amount of calcium and magnesium chlorides in a batch of salt, and calculating the quantity of sodium carbonate and phosphates needed to convert these into dry carbonates and phosphates. The salt was then dried at 100°C producing a free-flowing salt.
There's something familiar, warm and homely about a big, red container holding 750g of Saxa Salt. Bold and authoritative, it has long been a household favourite. The brand was launched in 1907 by the Cerebos company, which already produced a range of salt products, the majority of which were sold in bulk. Saxa's new, handy-sized packets were more convenient, and could be placed straight onto the table.
Salt is relatively cheap and easy to get hold of today, but for thousands of years it was a highly valued commodity, and was even used as a method of payment - Roman soldiers often received a salt allowance as part of their pay. An effective food preservative, it was also believed to have healing properties, and could be used as an antidote to poisons (which is why we say 'take it with a pinch of salt' when something should be treated with scepticism or caution). It was this belief in the medicinal value of salt that, in 1894, led chemist George Weddell, founder of the Cerebos company, to create the type of salt we use today.
Weddell's daughter had been very ill, but during that era tablets containing vitamins or trace elements to supplement the diet weren't available. As a chemist, Weddell knew that magnesium carbonate and calcium phosphate could strengthen his daughter's teeth and bones. He mixed small quantities of both with salt, and the result was a free-running grain that, unlike the old-fashioned, coarse blocks, did not have to be crushed in order to be placed in salt cellars. Realising that what he had stumbled upon could be a great commercial success, Weddell began manufacturing his new product, which sold extremely well and was awarded a royal warrant.
As well as Saxa, the Cerebos company created other classic brands such as Bisto, before being acquired in the 1960s by a grocery conglomerate called the RHM group. In the 1990s, as the celebrity-chef revolution took hold, the company expanded their range to satisfy the demands of a new generation of foodies and budding cooks. These new lines included such products as unrefined rock salt, which comes from a German mountain range, and a naturally evaporated French sea salt.
In 2001, Saxa was given a makeover. The company kept the bold red-and-white logo, but the new-look container now shows stylish images of some of the many foodstuffs that simply cry out for a good sprinkle of seasoning. Saxa has moved with the times, but somehow it has also remained the same old dependable favourite.
• George Weddell, a chemist, invented Cerebos salt in 1894. At the time the health of his daughter was not too good and Vitamins and Trace elements were unheard of, so George considered an addition to her diet to strengthen her bones and teeth. In order to supply a possible deficiency he conceived the idea of mixing Magnesium Carbonate and Calcium Phosphate, in small quantities, to salt. The results were favourable so George set about supplying the product to the general public. The public liked the fact that this enriched salt in its moisture proof pack was more free running than the old fashioned coarse blocks which had to be crushed by the housewife before putting it in to a salt cellar.
The familiar boy and chicken have been the Cerebos trademark for over half a century - see how it runs.
Cerebos carries a royal warrant.
Weddell called this Cerebos, and was able to rapidly gain a market. He built a factory at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool and the salt deposits there. In order to mine rock salt existing below the earth's surface, water was added to make salty water - brine. This was then pumped to surface and dried using the open-pan method.
It is said that Weddell's inspiration was his daughter, who was a sickly child. In order to strengthen her bones and teeth, he mixed magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate into her salt.
Cerebos Salt grew and employed a manager, chemist, engineer and small group of workers for packing. They soon appointed William Collins as salesman (he later became chairman, a millionaire and was knighted). The company also sold baking powder and health salts. By 1896 they had salesmen working throughout the UK, they sent samples to doctors and chemists for comment and so the name spread. In 1898 they moved to larger premises. In 1900 small traces of arsenic found in the phosphates they were using caused alarm, but the amounts involved were found to be very small and steps were taken to remove impurities.
The company gave away salt cellars and spoons in return for coupons placed in the tins of salt. In 1904 they became Cerebos Salt Ltd. In 1906 the manufacturing moved to Greatham where wells were drilled to bring brine to the surface.
• George Weddell died in 1916 and William Collins took over. In 1919 Cerebos Salt Ltd bought Middlewich Salt Co Ltd, giving them a total labour force of 850 women and 150 men.
After the Second World War new methods of production came in, Cerebos took over more companies and is now part of RHM foods.
• A late nineteenth-century fad was to think up outlandish names for products, such as Mazawattee tea. Invented by John Boon Densham in 1887, it combined two Far Eastern words for ‘luscious garden’, but vanished in 1955.
The beef extract Bovril (from bos or ox and the invented word ril) came from John Lawson Johnston. Justus von Liebig (d. 1873) was a gifted innovator in the technology of rendering down beef, and his successor invented the startlingly simple name of Oxo for its cubes.
Cerebos salt (ceres and bos combined) was the work of George Weddell, a chemist, whose company later manufactured the gravy powder Bisto, popularized by the immortal Bisto kids and their cry, ‘Ah! Bisto!’
George married Isabella JAQUES march quarter 1881 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.974 (Isabella JAQUES was born circa 1860 975.)