The Society for Acclimatization, France
Part 4

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The History of Soy Pioneers Around the World, Unpublished Manuscript

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

ęCopyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California

About Paillieux. The author of this remarkable 117-page article deserves our closer attention, for he was one of France's great soy pioneers. Nicolas-Auguste Paillieux lived from 1812-1898. A moving elegy to him published in the Revue Horticole of 1898 (p. 176. ref??) and another tribute by Bois in 1927 (ref??) described him as a man who was loved and admired by all who knew him as a fine and great man, with an indomitable energy and passion to be of service, active intelligence, genius for research, rectitude of character, and exquisite goodness. His great love was horticulture, stressing research in and popularization of little known or unknown yet promising edible plants. He was prodigiously active. He was said to express himself with remarkable precision and clarity, charming others by the elegance of his speech and the surety of his judgment.

His interest in soy apparently began rather late in his life. In 1876 (at age 64) he began working with Professor D. Bois in Crosne, near Corbeil, where they cultivated more than 250 plants from around the world, including two varieties of soybeans, one from China and one from Japan, neither of which was found to be well adapted to the climate (Bois 1927). In 1879 he and Bois published a small book titled New Winter Legumes. After writing his famous article of 1880, Paillieux expanded it into a book of the same title, which was published in 1881 by Libraire Agricole (26 rue Jacob, Paris). Then in 1884 Paillieux and Bois wrote Le Potager d'un Curieux (A Garden of Curiosities), describing the history, culture, and uses of little known or unknown edible plants. Published originally in the Society's bulletin, it was republished in 1885 in an enlarged version as a book. Pages 575-625 of this large work discussed soybeans. The book was extremely popular, a second edition appearing in 1892 and a third in 1899. The soy section concluded: "Soya is certainly one of the plants whose culture most merits to be encouraged in France and in her colonies." The joy of Paillieux's old age was the popularization of plants such as the soybean, Chinese artichoke, chufa, myoga, and kudzu. He died on 8 February 1898, at age 85.

Subsequent Work with Soy in France. It is not entirely clear why the decades of effort by the Society for Acclimatization to introduce soybeans showed such meager long-term results. The best analysis for the lack of strong success would seem to be that given by Paillieux at "Le Soja in France," above, and our analysis at the History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Europe (Chapter 14). Yet these efforts were of much more than passing significance, for they laid the ground for later pioneers such as the Mm. Vilmorin-Andrieux seed company, Li Yu-ying who pioneered soyfoods in Paris in the early 1900s, P. Carles who in 1907 was granted one of Europe's first soymilk patents, P. Mollieux who in 1914 did the first studies on the food value and composition of soy sprouts, L. Rouest who developed soymilk and soybean agriculture during the 1920s and 1930s, and J. Bordas who wrote about soyfoods in 1937 . . . and many others described at the early history of soyfoods in France (Chapter 14).

However the real results of the Society's pioneering efforts may only be appearing in the early 1980s, a full century after the peak of the Society's efforts. French farmers in the south of France are starting to grow soybeans in a big way and a new soyfoods movement is expanding in France, making tofu, miso, and other traditional, natural foods.

No doubt, M. Paillieux and his friends would be overjoyed.

French Countryside

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