The Chemist Who Invented Cool Whip, Pop Rocks, And TANG

The bright orange drink known as TANG was first invented with space in mind, as astronauts needed something that provided calories but didn't take up too much room in a carefully-packed rocket ship. General Mills is responsible for the concentrated drink mix's patent, and soccer players and children around the world have since guzzled the easy-to-make beverage.

Yet General Mills would not have the bright orange drink mix if it were not for the creativity and innovation of one food chemist. Though a lab accident that results in third-degree burns on 80% of one's body might turn a professional chemist off the field, for one man, the draw of experiments that captured his imagination was too strong to ignore. He even turned down later promotion offers to continue his work in the labs (via Great Big Story). And over the course of his career, this inventive food scientist was responsible for more than 70 patents for a variety of food creations. 

A legacy of invention

In his quest to create an instant soft drink, William A. Mitchell combined carbon dioxide with sugar flavoring and was surprised by the result: A popping, crackling combination that was not only fun to eat but delicious too. The unique duo led to the creation of the neon-colored candy known as Pop Rocks. Inside the sugary candy, small pockets of pressurized carbon dioxide are released once the outer layer of sugar disintegrates in your mouth. As a result, a popping noise is accompanied by the sweetness of the candy.

You'd think TANG and Pop Rocks would be enough of a legacy to leave behind, but in 1967, Mitchell mixed together 12 different ingredients to create Cool Whip to add to his list of edible inventions. Cool Whip was the first nondairy whipped cream and was a quick success, finding its way into an assortment of American desserts. The sweet treat could be frozen and shipped across the country, saving home cooks the hassle of mixing batches of whipped cream from scratch

"He knew what amplified flavors, what colors to use to make something more attractive. If you had a problem, he was the guy to go to," one of Mitchell's colleagues told Great Big Story. Thanks to Mitchell's consistent work, we have orange drinks to hydrate astronauts in outer space, crackling candy to keep kids of all ages entertained, and Cool Whip to fold into pistachio salad. Mitchell, we salute you.