Dr. Louis G. MacDowell (1912-1986)
Florida Citrus Commission
U.S. Patent 2,453,109
Dr. Louis G. MacDowell is undoubtedly one of the most important historical figures in the Florida citrus industry. A research chemist, he will forever be linked with the citrus industry due to his role in the creation of an effective concentrate, which was almost solely responsible for the revitalization of the Florida citrus industry in the 1950s.
Dr. MacDowell was born on July 29, 1912, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He moved to Florida at an early age, attending public school in Melbourne before eventually attending the University of Florida. He earned his BS and later a doctorate in 1936. After graduating, he joined Carbide & Carbon Chemicals Corporation in South Charleston, West Virginia.
In 1942, he became the Director of Research for the Florida Citrus Commission. In this same year, the Commission was asked to develop a new orange juice product in order to provide a means of shipping more vitamin C to troops on the battlefields of Europe in World War II. Prior to this, some forms of concentrate did exist, but they were unpleasant to taste. MacDowell joined with Edwin Moore and Cedric Atkins in order to develop an effective form of concentrate. The trio received $8,000 and a small government building in Winter Haven to work with, all the while facing the challenge of wartime restrictions on the use of metal. MacDowell provided guidance for the research team, instructing them not to write research papers to be published in professional journals, but to instead focus on developing “definitive experiments to be able to demonstrate to those who hold the financial reigns of the industry.”
The trio eventually developed a process by which water was evaporated from orange juice at 80 degrees farenheit. MacDowell himself contributed the idea of adding a little fresh orange juice to the concentrate mixture, returning the flavor of orange juice. The solution was then chilled, canned, and frozen. The men tinkered with the process until they got it exactly right.
On November 6, 1948, the government assigned patent U.S. 2,453,109 to the process, three years after the war had ended. The Department of Agriculture claimed the patent, as their facilities had been used in its development. The process was made available to anyone who wanted to use it, and it began to be used commercially by companies in Florida. The trio of scientists, including Dr. MacDowell, never complained about being left out of the financial gain from the use of the patent. The men were instead given six months of paid vacation time, of which six weeks could be used per year.
Although fascinated, the industry was initially slow to embrace the revolutionary new idea. Within a few years, however, explosive growth began to occur within the Florida citrus industry. The convenience of the new concentrate made it a hot product for many years The dramatic resurgence in Florida’s citrus industry that concentrate initiated eventually led citrus historian Thomas B. Mack of Florida Southern College to label it “The Cinderella Product.” Before this development, nearly all of Florida’s fruit production was for the fresh fruit industry. By 1956, 73 percent of Florida’s citrus production went into juice. This number has grown to 95 percent in recent years. Florida now grows citrus in an area larger than Rhode Island, and since 1995 it has only failed to ship over 200 million boxes in 2004, a year where Florida was ravaged by numerous hurricanes. Worldwide, Florida is second to only Brazil in terms of juice production.
Dr. MacDowell co-authored eleven other patents during his time with the Florida Citrus Commission, although none of the others had the dramatic effect that concentrate did. MacDowell was widely recognized for his accomplishments, earning the Distinguished Service Award from the United States Department of Agriculture, a Distinguished Service presentation of the University of Florida Centennial, the Forty-Niner Service Award and Honorary Life membership in the Old Guard Society, in addition to being named outstanding young man by the Florida Section of Junior Chamber of Commerce. Along with his two colleagues, MacDowell was named one of the 50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century.
During his lifetime, Dr. MacDowell as chairman of the Florida Section, American Chemical Society, was a fellow in the American Insitute of Chemists, a member of Institute of Florida Food Technologies, a former vice-president and honorary life member of the Florida State Horticultural Society, a member of the University of Florida Alumni Association, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and a member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemical Fraternity.
Dr. MacDowell retired in September, 1968. As a parting gift, he was presented with a large replica of a check to represent the money he would have received had he been awarded royalties of once cent per pound/solids on the concentrate patent. The amount was an incredible $141,968,321.17.