Public Talk – The quest for aqua vitae: The early history of alcohol

Tuesday, 1 May 2018, 06:30 pm — Tuesday, 1 May 2018, 08:00 pm


Which came first, beer or wine? Was agriculture developed in order to provide grains for bread or beer? Was the wine of the Bible grape wine or something else?

In this Public Talk, Professor Seth Rasmussen, North Dakota State University will provide an overview of the chemistry of fermented beverages, along with their eventual distillation to isolate alcohol beginning in the 12th century.

It is generally believed that the origin of alcoholic fermented beverages is shrouded in the mists of human prehistory. While its specific origins are uncertain, it is clear that the production of alcohol via fermentation is one of the oldest forms of chemical technology, with the production of fermented beverages such as mead, beer, and wine predating the smelting of metals. As a result of the intoxicating effects of these drinks, as well as their perceived pharmacological and nutritional benefits, fermented beverages have also played key roles in the development of human culture, contributing to the advancement of agriculture, horticulture, and food-processing techniques.

Professor Rasmussen’s visit is hosted by the Priority Research Centre for Organic Electronics (PRCOE) at the University of Newcastle. The PRCOE focusses on addressing global problems with low-cost printed electronics; ranging from solar cells for sustainable low-cost energy generation to salivary glucose biosensors for diabetics. The PRCOE is known worldwide for its development of Solar Paint and for its expertise in organic electronic materials and devices. Professor Rasmussen has been working with the PRCOE for over a decade; developing new materials for organic electronic devices.

The University of Newcastle is a proud supporter of Fulbright’s flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the United States of America, which is aimed at increasing binational collaboration, cultural understanding, and the exchange of ideas.

This is a free community event and numbers are limited. Registrations essential.

About the Speaker

Professor Seth Rasmussen is visiting the University of Newcastle from North Dakota State University, United States of America, as part of the University of Newcastle and Australian-American Fulbright Commission (Fulbright) scholarship exchange program.

Active in both materials chemistry and the history of chemistry, Professor Rasmussen’s research includes the design and synthesis of organic semiconducting materials, solar cells, organic light emitting diodes, the history of materials, and chemical technology in antiquity. Professor Rasmussen has contributed to books in both materials and history, and has published more than 95 research papers and book chapters.