Giants in History: Kikunae Ikeda

The chemist who discovered a new taste 

Kikunae Ikeda (8 October 1864 - 3 May 1936)


Kikunae Ikeda (8 October 1864 – 3 May 1936) was a Japanese chemist who discovered the fifth basic taste, umami. Ikeda was curious about the chemical basis of taste, especially why his favourite dashi broth made with kombu, a type of kelp, was particularly delicious. After analysing the chemical composition of kombu, Ikeda extracted glutamate, the compound which was responsible for the savoury flavour. Ikeda named the fifth taste umami, meaning savouriness in Japanese. In 1908, Ikeda acquired a patent for the mass production of glutamate and together with Saburosuke Suzuki II, set up the company Ajinomoto to produce glutamate in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

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