Carl De Laval

BY: J.C. McDowell

IT IS TRUE that this country has a long list of inventions to its credit, but the cream separator is not. one of them. It was invented by Carl Gustaf De Laval in Sweden in 1878,a little more than 50 years ago.

Gustaf De Laval was born in Sweden May 9, 1845. The name De Laval is of French origin. One of his ancestors came from France and settled in Sweden in 1622. This ancestor seems to have come of a warrior family, as he is reported to have thought with Gustavus Adolphus in at least one of the campaigns carried on by that great Swedish general.

Unlike his warrior ancestor, Gustaf De Laval was not interested in a military career. He was a thorough student and acquired a liberal as well as a technical education. In 1863 he became a student in the Upsala. University and was graduated from that institution in 1866 at the age of 21. In 1887 he is said to have received a doctor's degree from the same institution.

While in college, he specialized in engineering; but not being able to obtain work at once in his chosen field, he clerked for a time in a store. Though he was a thoroughly trained engineer, with a diploma from a first-class university, he spent his time weighing out. supplies to the miners in the neighborhood in order to earn a living. Later he was engaged in various occupations, but his interest centered in a. study of machinery and he finally became one of the greatest, inventors in an age of invention. His discoveries and inventions in the field of dairying were so numerous and so valuable that he has sometimes been called -the Edison of Dairying."

Previous to 1878, butter was made entirely from cream that was separated by means of the gravity method. The process was slow, the cream was usually sour, and the separation was so incomplete that considerable cream was left in the skimmilk. The gravity system is still used on many farms in this country, but it" has been displaced generally by the machine known as the centrifugal cream separator, for which De Laval is responsible. The idea of separating the cream from whole milk by whirling the milk did not originate; with De Laval, but he. was the first to devise a machine that would accomplish that purpose in a practical way. The separation of liquids by means of centrifugal force is said to have been first used by the Chinese, but so far as known they never applied this knowledge to the separation of milk.

As early as 1859 a German brewer applied centrifugal force to the separation of milk by rotating a barrel containing milk. After a time, the barrel was stopped and the cream was skimmed off De Laval heard of the work of the German brewer and offered to co-operate with him. As the German took little interest, in the invention, De Laval went ahead alone with his experiments. 

His first, machine consisted of cups, or buckets, which being filled with milk were whirled rapidly. As the buckets were whirled they took a horizontal position. The cream, being lighter than the other parts of the milk, gradually came towards the center; that is, toward the tops of the. buckets. After the buckets were whirled for some time, the machine was stopped and the cream was skimmed off.

The machine, was very slow. as it, separated only six gallons of milk at a time. De Laval was demonstrating the work of this machine to some of his friends one day, when one of those present remarked that as an experiment it, was very interesting. Then turning to De Laval he asked, "How many of those machines do you think would be needed on a. farm where 100 cows are kept?"

Within a, few weeks after making his first separator, De Laval had so improved his machine that it, would separate 35 gallons of milk .at a, time, but it was not until he made a machine thru which the milk flow was continuous that the invention was really a success. This machine, invented in 1S78, was called the "Continuous Centrifugal Cream Separator." It, was a power driven machine with a capacity of about, 300 pounds of milk per hour. De Laval also invented the first hand separator.

Thru the continuous flow separator the milk flowed in a small continuous stream and was whirled and separated as it, passed along. The cream flowed out constantly thru one spout and the skimmilk thru another. The principle was identical with that of the cream separators of today, though the first machines were much less efficient in quantity of work done, and they did not remove the butterfat so completely as is done by the modern separators.

The continuous centrifugal cream separator was a great success from the start. Within a. few years from the time it was invented, it had almost completely revolutionized the dairy business. The great superstructure of modern dairying has for its foundation the cream separator and the Babcock test for milk and cream. If these two foundation pillars were removed from modern dairying, the superstructure would fall almost as quickly, and certainly as completely, as the great Philistine theater is reported to have fallen when the two center posts gave way in the hands of Samson.

De Laval demonstrated his cream separator in England in 1879. While there he was presented with a silver medal by the Royal Agricultural Society of England. As time passed he received many honors. The King of Sweden presented him with the Cross of the Order of Wasa and made him a Knight of the Order of the North Star. In 1886 he became a member of the Academy of Science, and that society awarded him a gold medal in 1892. He was made an honorary member of the Agricultural Academy of Sweden in 1896. In 1904 he was presented with a medal by the Engineers' Society of Germany in recognition of his work on the steam turbine.

After the invention of the cream separator in 1878, he spent most of his time perfecting that machine and working out other inventions. He built, a large factory in Stockholm for the manufacture of cream separators. In 1883 he invented the steam turbine, which probably added as much to his fame as did the cream separator.

Though De Laval was a great inventor in other fields as well as dairying and a tireless worker in his chosen field of engineering, it is said that he was a poor business man and throughout his whole life was never in good financial circumstances. He was, however, perfectly honest and upright in all his financial dealings. To further his inventions De Laval sometimes found it necessary to borrow money. Occasionally he borrowed small amounts from his cousin. It is related that on one such occasion he offered to give his cousin a note covering the amount of the loan. His cousin replied, "Oh, never mind, it isn't worth while; for you will never be able to pay it anyhow."
The first continuous flow cream separators were power-driven machines with a capacity of about 300 pounds of milk per hour. The first separators used in this country were shipped here, from Sweden. These were power-driven machines with a capacity of about 700 pounds of milk per hour. The price at which these machines were sold in this country was $250. The first, hand separators in this country were shipped here in 1885. Though these machines were expensive, hard to operate, and much less efficient than the hand machines of today, they soon became very popular.

Well do I remember the excitement, caused by the first cream separator shipped into my home county in central Wisconsin. Nobody in our neighborhood had yet seen one and there was much speculation as to how it, worked. We were all acquainted with the mechanism of the grain separator that separated the wheat from the straw/and we were familiar with the fanning mill that separated oats and weed seeds from the wheat; but we could not even imagine how a machine could separate cream from the milk. Finally one of our neighbors saw this separator at work, and he explained its principles to us. He said that the separator was not made with seives as was the case when oats and wheat were separated in the fanning mill. He explained that the cream and skimmilk were separated by means of whirling: that the. whole milk was whirled very rapidly and the skimmilk being heavier than the cream passed to the outside of the circle, where it was removed by a, spout, and that the cream being lighter collected at the center where it was removed by another spout. His explanation satisfied us and for a brief explanation in simple language, I think it was very good.

Though De Laval's invention separated the cream from the milk, the dairy industry was still confronted with two pressing problems: how rich in butterfat. was the cream, and how much butterfat was still left in the skimmilk? It, was just about this time that Dr. S. M. Babcock of the Wisconsin University made his great contribution to the dairy industry by discovering a simple test that determined with great accuracy the percentage of butterfat in whole milk, in cream, and in skimmilk.

Almost immediately creameries, cheese factories, skimming stations, condenseries, and other establishments sprang into being and dairying took its place: among the great, industries. Thus the invention of the cream separator soon brought untold wealth to the great dairy districts of the. world. The cream separator helps every individual dairy farmer that uses it. As a rule, the old shallow pan system left more than 10 percent of the cream in the skimmilk. Therefore, if a cow produced 300 pounds of butterfat a year, the shallow pan system would leave 30 pounds of this production in the skimmilk. At 50 cents a pound this 30 pounds of butterfat would have a value of $15. Therefore, with a herd of 20 cows whose average butterfat production was 300 pounds the dairyman would suffer an annual loss of $300.

It has been estimated that if all the cream that is used annually in the making of butter in the United States had to be separated by the deep-setting system, the yearly loss in butterfat, at farm. prices for the product, would be more than $35,000,000. The butterfat left in the skimmilk by the cream separator is negligible, so this saving of $35,000,000 may be credited to De Laval's great invention.

When we remember that, this saving is not for one year only, but that it will extend over all the years to come, we get some idea. of the great value of this. invention to the people of the United States. As the cream separator is now used in all the great dairy districts of the world, the total value of this invention to the world's dairy industry each year must be several times $35,000,000.
Though De Laval's two great, inventions were the cream separator and the steam turbine, he had many lesser inventions to his credit. In order to determine the percentage of butterfat in milk he invented the lactocrite which was practical but which was soon superseded by the more simple test discovered by Dr. Babcock. De Laval built a. factory in Stockholm in which to manufacture incandescent, and arc electric lamps. He invented the centrifugal emulsifier and patented a mechanical milker in 1894. He planned to build machinery to utilize the water power which is so abundant, in Sweden but gave this up when he found that the government claimed all the water rights. While De Laval devoted most of his time and all of his resources to inventions, he was also interested in public affairs.

For eight years he served in the Swedish Parliament, two years in the Lower House and six years in the Upper House. ' Not caring to remain longer in politics he declined reelection and spent the remainder of his life in Ins chosen field, that of invention. 

The year 1928 marked the Fiftieth, or Golden Anniversary of the invention of the cream separator. At, that time many articles regarding the great, inventor appeared in the agricultural papers all over the United States, and the De. "Laval Separator Company published a. book made up of letters received at that time from the leading dairy specialists in this country. All those letters highly praised Dr. De Laval and his great inventions.

De Laval lived until 1913. Though he never became rich, he left the world richer because of his many contributions to practical mechanics. To prove that he was truly great, we need only say that his entire life was a life of intelligent service to his fellowmen.

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