Clarence “Bob” Birdseye was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 9, 1886. He attended Amherst College for two years with the intention of becoming a biologist, but never graduated. Instead, he went to work for the U.S. Biological Survey in 1912 as a field naturalist and was sent to the Canada to conduct research culture of the Native Americans who lived there and traded animal furs. Birdseye returned to Labrador again in 1916 with his new wife and infant.
While in Labrador, Birdseye began experimenting with freezing foods. In order to preserve vegetables imported to Labrador by ship, and information gathered on methods used by the Eskimos, Birdseye began experimenting with quick-freezing. Birdseye also used fish and caribou meat and discovered that with quick-freezing methods, it would not cause any damage to the cellular structure of the food as it does with slow freezing and that these foods would remain fresh-flavored.
As a young scientist, Birdseye was making notes on his fascinating discovery and also realized that this could be highly profitable. Birdseye returned to the United States in 1917 to develop commercial techniques of rapidly freezing food. In 1923 he invested all of his savings into Birdseye Seafoods, marketing frozen fish. In 1924 he along with three partners founded General Seafoods in Gloucester, Massachusetts, becoming the first company to use the method of rapid dry freezing of foods in compact, packageable units.
The Postum Company bought Birdseye's business and 168 patents in 1929 for $22 million. The company renamed itself General Foods and marketed its frozen foods under the Birds Eye trademark. Clarence Birdseye continued as a consultant to General Foods after the sale and continued promoting the development of the frozen foods industry by lecturing and writing. Over the course of his life, Birdseye obtained and invented over 300 patents including ones for an infrared heat lamp, a whale-fishing harpoon, a method of dehydrating foods, and a spotlight for store window displays. When Birdseye died in New York City, he was recognized as the father of the frozen food industry and his name lives on in the Birds Eye brand of frozen vegetables.
Throughout his life, Birdseye was a skilled businessman. He did more than create the modern frozen food industry. He also obtained almost 300 patents for various inventions, many of them in the fields of incandescent lighting, wood pulping, and infrared heating.
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