Friday, August 15, 2014

Eva Ekeblad (10 July 1724 – 15 May 1786)

Eva Ekeblad, née Eva De la Gardie, was a Swedish agronomist, scientist, Salonist and noble (Countess). Her most known discovery was to make flour and alcohol out of potatoes (1746). She was the first female member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1748).

Eva De la Gardie was born to statesman count Magnus Julius De la Gardie (1668–1741) and the amateur politician and salonist Hedvig Catharina Lilje.

Eva was at the age of 16 (1740) married to the statesman count Claes Claesson Ekeblad, and became the mother of seven children (one son and six daughters). The couple had a residence in Stockholm and an estate in Västergötland and belonged to the very highest circles of the Swedish nobility. Eva Ekeblad was renowned for her charity to the poor.

Her spouse was often absent, and Eva was responsible for the management for the estates and supervised the bailiffs and the country-assemblys of Mariedal and Stola Manor. In Stockholm, she hosted a culturel salon and was described as "one of few aristocratic ladies whose honour was considered untainted". The first concert performings of the mass music of Johan Helmich Roman were performed in her salon at the Ekeblad palace.

Scientific Activity
Ekeblad discovered how to make flour and alcohol out of potatoes (1746). She thereby made potatoes, a plant introduced in Sweden in 1658 but until then only cultivated in the greenhouses of the aristocracy, a part of the basic food supply. This greatly improved eating habits and reduced the hunger epidemics. Previously, alcohol had been made by wheat, rye and barley, but now, more of that could be saved to make bread instead.

She also discovered a method of bleaching cotton textile and yarn with soap (1751), and of replacing the dangerous ingredients in the cosmetics of the time by making powder from potatoes (1752). She was said to have advertised the use of potatoes by using the flowers of the plant as hair ornaments.

Eva wrote to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences about her first discovery in 1746. In 1748, she became the first woman elected to the Academy, although she never took part in any of the Academy's meeting. After 1751, the Academy came to refer to her as an honorary rather than a full member, as the statutes confined membership to men.

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