Friday 10 April 2015

Men of Yore: Henri Nestle

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Henri Nestle (Source:

Henri Nestlé, born Heinrich Nestle (10 August 1814 – 7 July 1890), was a Swiss confectioner and the founder of Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company,[1] as well as one of the main creators of condensed milk.

Early Life
Heinrich Nestle was born on 10 August 1814, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.[2] He was the eleventh of fourteen children of Johann Ulrich Matthias Nestle and Anna-Maria Catharina Ehemann. Nestle's father, by tradition, inherited the business of his father, Johann Ulrich Nestle, and became a glazier in Töngesgasse. The later Lord Mayor of Frankfurt am Main, Gustav Edmund Nestle, was his brother.[citation needed]

The Nestle family has its origin in southern Swabia, predominantly in the boroughs of the Black Forest as Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Mindersbach, Nagold and Sulz am Neckar. In the Swabian dialect, "Nestle" is a small bird's nest. The name Nestle also has different variations, including Nästlin, Nästlen, Nestlin, Nestlen, and Niestle.

The Nestle family tree began with three brothers (thus the three young birds in the nest being fed by their mother on the family coat of arms) from Mindersbach called Hans, Heinrich and Samuel Nestlin. The father of these three sons was born circa 1495. Hans, the eldest, was born in 1520 and had a son with the same name, who later became mayor of Nagold. His son Ulrich was a barber and his fifth son was the first glazier in the family. For over five generations, this profession was passed down from father to son. Additionally, the Nestles provided a number of mayors for the boroughs of Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Nagold and Sulz on Neckar.

Before Nestlé turned 20 in 1836, he had completed a four-year apprenticeship with J. E. Stein, an owner of a pharmacy. At the end of 1839, he was officially authorized to perform chemical experiments, make up prescriptions, and sell medicines. During this time, he changed his name to Henri Nestlé in order to adapt better to the new social conditions in French-speaking Vevey, Switzerland.

In 1843, Henri Nestlé bought into one of the region's most progressive and versatile industries at that time, the production of rapeseeds. He also became involved in the production of nut oils (used to fuel oil lamps), liqueurs, rum, absinthe and vinegar. He also began manufacturing and selling carbonated mineral water and lemonade, although during the crisis years from 1845 to 1847 Nestlé gave up mineral water production. In 1857 he began concentrating on gas lighting and fertilizers.   
The Development of Baby FormulaUntil the end of the 19th century, if a mother could not breastfeed and the family could not afford a wet nurse, babies were often fed with porridge. This led to severe intestinal disorders and many babies did not survive. At that time, approximately one in five children in Europe died before their first birthday. Henri Nestlé experienced this first hand – five of his thirteen siblings died in childhood. This may explain why he was so interested in this field of research.

Improvements in the hygiene of living conditions and the reduction of infectious diseases increased the survival chances of children, but significant improvements in child mortality were only achieved once research paid attention to the importance of baby nutrition, such as the work carried out by the Medical Academy in France. 
Henri Nestlé, who was now a qualified pharmacist, also contributed to this progress. Mothers who could not breastfeed were faced with a dilemma: the baby needed feeding but the digestibility of animal milk was poor. So Henri had the idea of producing a nutrient enriched cereal that could be used for feeding in situations when no mother's milk was available.
After several tests, in 1867 Henri Nestlé created the first baby formula; his research had finally succeeded. His baby formula managed to save a little baby just a few months old, who had been on the brink of death – « Little Wanner ». From that time onwards, his baby formula was tested and approved by numerous doctors and midwives and became famous as a complete product, easy to digest and with a good taste – the first in Europe and then throughout the world.

Henri Nestlé continued his research and ensured that his products were regularly tested by recognised authorities. At the world exhibition in 1871, Nestlé's baby formula was awarded a gold medal for its merits in reducing infant mortality. He had helped to achieve a major goal: feeding non-breastfed babies was now safer.

However, in spite of his ongoing scientific achievements and new developments in baby food, Henri Nestle always recognised the superiority of breast milk and breastfeeding. In 1869 he recorded his thoughts on this issue, stating "During the first few months, mother's milk will always remain the most natural form of infant nutrition and each mother who is able to do it, should breast-feed her child."
Henri Nestlé in PrivateHenri Nestlé remained a bachelor for a long time. It was only in 1860, when he was 46 years old, that he married Clementine Therese Ehemant, a lady from Frankfurt, during a stay in his birth town. After their arrival in Vevey, she also changed her name and called herself Ehmant. Unfortunately the marriage remained childless, but the couple later adopted an orphan: Emma Seiler, later called Emma Nestlé.

Retirement and Later Years
Henri Nestlé sold his company in 1875 to his business associates and then lived with his family alternately in Montreux and Glion, where they helped people with small loans and publicly contributed towards improving the local infrastructure. In Glion he moved into a house later known as Villa Nestlé.

Nestlé died of a heart attack in Glion on 7 July 1890. he was buried at Territet Cemetery in Montreux.[1]


Corporations need not be bad, despite what the political left might say.  Henri Nestle is proof of this.  He founded a company that manufactured baby feed for children that would have otherwise suffered from malnutrition and potential death (remember that malnutrition and infant death is something we in the West associate with impoverished third world countries), and he did it with good sound scientific reasoning and study.  He put his years of study as a pharmacist to good use and devised a foodstuff (no mean feat - scratch-building a foodstuff) suitable for infants.  The results speak for themselves: reduced infant malnutrition, reduced infant death, reduced suffering.  No one, no one in their right mind anyway, could argue with positives like that.  That's what corporations do, and do on a daily basis, regardless of what the left-wing harpies might say about it.


No comments:

Post a Comment