Perfumer, chemist, machine: Gas chromatography and the industrial search to “improve” flavor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Drawing from published accounts of the use of gas chromatography (GC) in the food industry, found in industry-specific journals, this article examines the role of GC in changing how perfumers and flavorists think about and shape the sense-able world. It shows that the development of a novel twist on GC – the use of an expert’s nose as a detecting device directly connected to the exit gasses of the gas chromatograph, rather than an instrumental detector – opened the door to a new way of categorizing aromatic molecules that changed the purpose of expert practices of smelling within the industrial context. The marriage of human and machine not only offered those tasked with developing the perfect flavor the tools for gaining information about what aspects of a flavor they wished to keep, it also helped identify what aspects they ought to discard or obfuscate in their search to improve the natural world of tastes and smells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-59
Number of pages19
JournalSenses and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Agnotology
  • Flavor analysis
  • Gas chromatography-olfactometry
  • Perfumery
  • Sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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