THE ORGANIZERS OF THE SCIENCE & COOKING WORLD CONGRESS BARCELONA 2019 WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE PHYSICIST NICHOLAS KURTI FOR HIS CONTRIBUTION TO DEFINING THE CONCEPT SCIENCE AND COOKING IN THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SPEECH «THE PHYSICIST IN THE KITCHEN» IN THE FRIDAY EVENING DISCOURSE OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON ON MARCH 14, 1969.
Nicholas Kurti (Budapest, 1908 – Oxford, 1998), physicist at Oxford University with a great interest for cooking, became famous in 1969, after he gave the speech «The Physicist in the Kitchen» in the Friday Evening Discourse of the Royal Society. Using his own experiences with the new technology used in microwave ovens, Kurti expressed «The importance of exploring physics and chemical transformations by scientists that take place when foods are prepared in the kitchen.». One of his better-known quotes, which demonstrates the lack of attention to knowledge of the culinary facts, «I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés».
In 2000, J.H. Sanders (Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University), published the official biography of Kurti in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, of the Royal Society. The biography refers, of course, about the formative years of the physicist in Paris, about his incorporation to Oxford University in 1933 as an expert in low temperatures and nuclear magnetization experimentation (with professor Frederick Lindemann F.R.S., Lord Cherwell, responsible of Clarendon Laboratory) and about Kurti’s experiences and activities at the university. Most remarkable in his biography, however, is an atypical aspect of professor Kurti’s life as an academic: his interest in the culinary facts.
Indeed, in the section ‘Gastronomy’, Sanders considers Kurti’s life to locate the origins in his culinary vocation in modern scientists (post World War II) and to relate some elements that explain why the Hungarian physicist must be considered as one of the fathers of the recent inclusion of science in Cooking and a founder of the Molecular Gastronomy and Physics movement.
Two of these elements are worth noting. The first, professor Kurti’s petition, in 1986, to the fellow members of the Royal Society: a paper on a topic related to cooking, from a scientist’s perspective. The second, his and his wife Giana Kurti’s book But the Crackling Is Superb. An anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of Royal Society, presented by the president of the Royal Society, Sir George Porter, in 1988.
Some of the experts, chefs and scientists in this Science & Cooking World Congress Barcelona 2019 were lucky enough to have a personal or professional relationship with Nicholas Kurti, and most of them have written about the facts mentioned here and which have become key moments in the development of the concept Science and Cooking in the last 50 years. We would like to encourage all participants to take advantage of the unique opportunity of discovering these moments as well as their main actors, and to be actively involved in the events of the congress by sharing their comments, questions or suggestions.
HOMAGE TO A GREAT SCIENCE & COOKING RESEARCHER AND COMMUNICATOR
Fernando Sapiña (1967-2018) was a professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Universitat de València, a researcher and director of the Institut de Ciència dels Materials de la Universitat de València (ICMUV) and a member of the Advisory Board of the Càtedra de Divulgació de la Ciència-UCC+i at the same university.
His research dealt with the design and characterization of synthesis material methods with composition, microstructures, and property control, and in these areas Sapiña authored or co-authored over 90 scientific articles on topics such as molecular magnetism, critical high-temperature supercomputers, magneto-resistive materials, and materials for thermal barriers. He directed the book collections Sense Fronteres and Ciència entre Lletres, by Publicacions de la Universitat de València, and he published the books Un futur sostenible (“A Sustainable Future”, 2001, Bromera and PUV) and El repte energètic (“The Energy Challenge”, 2004, Bromera i PUV), finalists to the award Premi Europeu de Divulgació Científica Estudi General on 2000 and 2004, respectively.
As a science Communicator, Sapiña gave countless talks and workshops, and he took part in activities related to global change, la nanotechnology and, specially, the relationship between cooking and science. His passion for the latter led to his development of research projects such as the one resulting in the resolution of the problem of basic sferification through the proposal of the method for reverse sferification, and it turned Sapiña into one of the main driving forces behind the concept Science and Cooking. The consolidation of this concept was partially the result of his collaborations with the Espai Ciència of Acció Cultural del País Valencià and with the journal Mètode, of which he coordinated several monographs and where he wrote a regular section, ‘La ciència a taula’ (‘Science at the table’).
Shortly, and to commemorate his invaluable contribution to the dissemination of the concept Science and Cooking, a collection of Sapiña’s articles in Mètode and the book Softmatter Transformations in Culinary Processes, by Davide Cassi, Pere Castells and Fernando Sapiña, will be published.