In the 1950s, the MIT Food Technology Department’s food irradiation research represented the cutting edge of the field. Taste-testers noted that one of the key drawbacks to irradiation was the way it altered food texture. Not surprisingly, department chair Bernard Proctor made the study of food texture a priority. Aaron Brody completed his undergraduate degree in 1951 and immediately started his graduate studies under Proctor. His dissertation research studied all the factors affecting food texture, including storage and processing conditions as well as the effects of ingredients and cooking. Brody converted the department’s “Strain Gage Denture Tenderometer” into an instrument for the objective measurement of food properties that had never before been considered measurable. He gained some unexpected fame when his device was shown in Life magazine and other publications, but the most significant result was that manufacturers learned how everything from processing conditions, ingredients and formulations to cooking and even changes in storage conditions affected the final masticatory properties of a particular food item. That knowledge made possible a revolution in the design of future food products, foods carefully engineered with specific properties designed to maximize profitability in manufacture.
Strain Gage Denture Tenderometer
photo: Michael Cardinali for MIT Museum