Archives and Manuscript Collections
Records of the Laboratory (RG5)
ALEXANDER P. ANDERSON RECORDS (1899-1931)
3.8 linear feet (3 boxes)
P. Anderson (1862-1943) was born on a farm in Featherstone, Goodhue County,
Minnesota on November 22, 1862, to Swedish immigrants. He attended local
schools and, briefly, the University of Minnesota but was obliged to return
to the farm to help his parents. After their death he returned to the University
in 1890. He received his B.S. degree in 1894 and a M.S. degree in 1895.
During this time, the University published the results of a laboratory
study Anderson had made of the growth in weight of a pumpkin by training
the vine and resting the pumpkin in the scale-pan of a self- registering
Alexander P. Anderson came to work at The New York Botanical Garden
Laboratories through the encouragement of Dr. Daniel Trembly MacDougal,
who was at the time Director of Laboratories. It was under MacDougal that
Anderson received his Master's degree at the University of Minnesota. After
obtaining his B.S. and M.S. he went to Munich for his Ph.D., where he became
interested in the structure of starch grains. He left for Munich in 1895
and received his Ph.D. one year later. Anderson became very interested
in the Meyer starch grain granule theory. He did some work at the Missouri
Botanical Garden when he returned from Munich but soon went to South Carolina
to teach botany at Clemson College, then later to the University of Minnesota.
When offered a position as Curator of the Herbarium of Columbia University
with the use of the laboratories at The New York Botanical Garden, he resigned
his teaching position and moved to New York. His work on starch granules
continued at the Garden's Laboratories.
In December 1901 it occurred to Anderson that starch granules could
be exploded and blasted into powder with particles infinitely smaller that
starch granules themselves. He took small glass tubes and hermetically
sealed powdered starch in each tube. In an oven, the tubes were heated
up to 400 degrees and when taken out, while still hot, cracked with a hammer.
Once the pressure was released, the starch came out a porous, enlarged,
snow-white mass. A very different result than expected.
Later, rice, wheat, and other whole-grain cereals were treated in the
same way. Over 1,000 experiments were conducted on different products in
1902. Anderson also worked on killing bacteria by disrupting and exploding
their cell walls, thus rendering their culture media sterile. The results
of the experiments on cereal grains were commercial products known as "puffed
rice" and "puffed wheat" made from exploding the grains. Puffed rice was
first exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.
In 1902, Dr. Anderson sold his patent and his services to the Quaker
Oats Company and left The New York Botanical Garden. He continued his research
on the minute structure of starch grains and continued to develop improved
cereal foods and adhesives until his death in 1943.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The bulk of the records are a collection of laboratory notebooks in
which Anderson meticulously recorded each of his experiments as well as
the equipment and instruments he used during the experiments. The collection
also includes several hundred patents from the U.S. Patent Office, both
of his own inventions and of other inventors. The records also contain
a few pieces of correspondence relating to his invention of the "puffing
process" as well as a few articles written by Anderson himself. The notebooks
cover Anderson's career from the time just prior to his working at The
New York Botanical Garden until 1931. An inventory of his notebooks prepared
by his daughter, Lydia Elizabeth Hedin, is also included.
Series 1: Laboratory Notebooks
Series 2: Patents
Series 3: Correspondence
Series 1: Laboratory Notebooks - 1899-1931
2.6 lin. ft. Arranged numerically.
The notebooks contain the starch experiments which Dr. Anderson began
at Clemson College and continued at The New York Botanical Garden in 1901
where the process of puffing starch, rice, and wheat was discovered. Dr
Anderson continued his investigations for the Quaker Oats Company, to improve
the cereal products of "puffed wheat" and "puffed rice." In 1917 he built
a complex of laboratories in Red Wing, Minnesota where he continued his
experiments. There are 38 notebooks numbered 1-40 (29 and 30 are missing).
Series 2: Patents
8 lin. in.
This material pertains to starch and grain experiments, machinery, adhesives,
etc., including 3 of his own patents.
Series 3: Correspondence
This series contains letters regarding his experiments and patents,
as well as some reprints and articles.
Donated in 1977 by the family of A. P. Alexander.
Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, Minnesota
Laboratory notebooks have been microfilmed.
PROCESSED BY: Susan Fraser, July 1998.
For more information and a complete description contact
Susan Fraser, NYBG
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
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