Biography of Laszlo (Ladislaus) Berczeller (1890-1955) and History of his Work with Edelsoja Whole Soy Flour
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s
©Copyright 2016 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, California
Laszlo Berczeller, a Hungarian food physiologist, was one of the most important pioneers of soyfoods, and especially of soy flour, in Europe. He developed the first widely used soyfood in Europe and he envisioned a much larger role for soyfoods there than anyone had before him. His work in developing and patenting a high-quality soy flour, arranging for its production in various countries, and making its many virtues well known, played a key role in introducing soyfoods to the Western world and making soy flour the most widely used soy protein food there today.
An overview describing Berczeller's work in the larger context of the history of soy flour in Europe is given in our History of Soy Flour.
Birth, Genealogy and Early Life. Laszlo Berczeller (also known by his German first name, Ladislaus), was born on 9 Aug. 1890 (according to his marriage certificate) in Budapest, Hungary, to a wealthy Jewish medical family. As is common in Hungarian (and Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), he wrote his name (as on his personal bookplate – Ex Libris) with his surname first: Berczeller László. His father was Imre Berczeller, a doctor (an ob-gyn) and his mother was Josefa / Josephine née Deutsch. Josephine’s father was Samuel Deutsch, a wealthy broadcloth merchant; a painted portrait of him still survives at a museum in Budapest. Laszlo’s parents had three sons of whom László ("Laci") was the oldest, the next Pál ("Pali") and the youngest Antal ("Anti"). A small photo of the three boys still survives.
Note: Laszlo Berczeller’s earliest biographer (Arnould 1960) gives Laszlo Berczeller’s birth date as about 1885 in Budapest. His second biographer (Baruk 1974) gives the birth date as 1885. Neither of them gives the exact date of birth. We believe the date of birth on Berczeller’s marriage certificate (9 Aug. 1890) is the one most likely to be correct.
Laszlo married Selma née Buchwald on 5 Feb. 1918 at the head synagogue in Vienna (Stadttempel). Born on 8 Feb. 1892, her father was Ignatz Buchwald and her mother was Rosa née Jeiteles. At the time of the marriage, Laszlo resided at IX Borschweg 7 in Budapest, and his bride, Selma, resided at IX Funfschaller? 1 in Vienna (marriage certificate); they had no children.
Early Interest in and Work with Soyfoods (1913-1923). His interest in soyfoods was piqued in 1913 when he attended a soyfoods dinner at the Japanese Club in Berlin. There a Japanese professor described the various foods, including soymilk, to him, which prompted him to later study their nutritional value (Berczeller 1921; Ferree 1929). By 1914 Dr. Berczeller was a Professor of Biochemistry on the Medical Faculty of the University of Budapest. He was well known and respected in his field, with many publications relating to foods (including lecithin) and nutrition. During World War I (1914-18), he worked for the Austro-Hungarian government as a food physiologist, probably in Vienna, where he continued his research and publications. Apparently during the war he became deeply interested in adapting the soybean to European eating habits in order to provide better and less expensive nourishment for the starving masses of Europe. After the war, from 1918 to early 1920, he worked in the laboratory of a Dr. Wassermann in Vienna studying blood proteins (Prinz 1944; Arnould 1960) and as assistant to Prof. Franz Tangel. While working at the Physiological Institute of the University of Vienna, he probably learned about the work of Prof. Friedrich J. Haberlandt who, although he had died in 1878, also taught in Vienna and left a strong legacy of interest in soybeans and soyfoods.
In about March 1920 he went to work for Robert Graham in Vienna. Since the mid-1890s Graham, a chemist, had searched for the most nutritious forms of food. He and his staff of chemists in Vienna were investigating soyfoods, especially soy flour, as “a nutritive, inexpensive food for the starving children of Austria and Central Europe . . . and for the starving millions in Russia” (Graham 1921). It is not clear at the time when Berczeller and Graham started working together which of the two men knew the most about and had the greatest interest in soyfoods. Soon, however, the interest was strong and mutual. On 20 Jan. 1921 Berczeller (PhD of Vienna, Austria) applied for his first patent related to soy, an Austrian patent titled (in translation) “Process for improving soy beans.” It was issued on 25 April 1927 as No. 106,346).
A few days later, on Jan. 26 Berczeller and Robert Graham (the latter of Haymount, Scotland) applied for a similar German patent. It was issued on 15 Nov. 1924 as No. 406,170.
Two months later, on 7 March 1921 Berczeller (of Vienna) applied for his 3rd patent, an Austrian patent titled (in translation) “Process for manufacture of a mixed bread from soybeans.” It was issued on 25 June 1924 as No. 97,252.
Three years later, on 1 March 1924 Berczeller (now of Budapest, Hungary) applied for a British patent titled “Improved treatment of soy beans.” It was issued on 28 May 1925 as No. 234,202. Soy beans are heated then subjected to saturated steam for 10-12 minutes. They are then bolted and ground. This is the earliest known English-language document related to Berczeller and soy.
By late 1921 Berczeller, Graham, and the staff of chemists had developed three products: soymilk, soy flour, and a bread containing soy flour. The products were called, respectively, Manna Milk, Manna Flour, and Manna Bread. Although Berczeller was primarily a scientist at this time, he had begun to develop what would become a lifelong flair for publicizing his soyfoods work in a big way. On 28 September 1921 two articles about Berczeller and his work appeared in the Times (London). The first, a long (2100 word) article written by him, was titled “’Manna’ food. Products of the Soya Bean. Bread, Flour and Milk” (pp. 11-12). The second, written about him, was a sort of preface titled “’Manna’ for the Hungry” (p. 11, col. 3). The soymilk was said to be manufactured in Vienna at one-sixth the cost of cow's milk, to be indistinguishable in taste from fresh milk but with an almond-like flavor, to be used with tea, cocoa, puddings, or ice creams, and to be preferred by animals to the best powdered milk. The whole soy flour, 40% less expensive than wheat flour in Vienna, contained 40% protein and 20% fat. The bread, less expensive than any other on the market, was said to be good tasting, readily digestible, and long lasting, staying fresh for 2-3 weeks. The Times preface to the article stated that Berczeller was “working in a laboratory specially placed at his disposal by the Austrian Minister of Public Health and his studies are being watched with lively interest by the British Minister and the American High Commissioner in Vienna.” The next day a letter, somewhat reprimanding in tone, from Robert Graham (apparently an Englishman then living in London) appeared in the Times, stating that for the last 18 months Berczeller had been employed solely by Graham and that Graham was prepared to make a free gift of his processes for making Manna foods to alleviate the distress of the starving millions of Russia.
By April 1920, the month after he began working with Graham, Berczeller was chastised in a letter from the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Vienna for working for high wages and a share of the profits as an experimental scientist in a private food manufacturing firm (Graham's), instead of establishing an institute for experimental therapy, as he was supposed to. In May 1921, Berczeller was asked to vacate his university laboratory. He was now fully involved with soyfoods.
Berczeller believed that soyfoods would never be accepted in Europe unless careful nutritional experiments were done to demonstrate their high nutritional value. Therefore, while working with Graham and with the Physiological Institute of the University of Vienna, he began nutritional studies, while continuing his work on developing new soyfood products. His first publication on this subject appeared as a series of three articles, starting in October 1921 in the Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (“Viennese Clinical Weekly”); it was published in expanded form in 1922 in the prestigious Biochemische Zeitschrift, under the title “Investigations on Soy Flour.” Here Berczeller stated that he had developed a method for producing a soy flour that had no unpleasant flavor. He noted that since Haberlandt had introduced the soybean to Europe in 1878 there had been many attempts to make the remarkably nutritious soybean useful as a food there, but without success. Attempts had been made to introduce Japanese and Chinese soyfoods but they had not caught on. “The soybean must, above all, be a food for the people, like the potato, and it will surely play this role as soon as its biological shortcomings are eliminated.” After citing the work of Osborne and Mendel, and of Daniels in America, Berczeller described an experiment in which he fed rats three soyfoods: whole soybeans, common soy flour (ground raw soybeans), and his patented soy flour “O.” The animals showed a marked preference for his product, and those that consumed the largest quantities of it lived the longest. He concluded that, “With its low cost, high nutritional value, and extreme ease of use in cooking, soy flour meets all requirements for a good food. Practical research must now determine whether and how it can best prove itself in human nutrition.”
Between 1921 and 1925 Berczeller also published various articles on soy flour in Hungarian-language journals: “On the Biological Effects of Foods” (Therapie 1921/22), “On Soybeans” (Herba 1923), and “The Significance of Soya for the Nourishment of the People.” (Therapie 1925).
New Alliances and Progress. In about 1923 Berczeller appears to have become independent of his early employer, Robert Graham, and struck out on his own. The fact that no mention is made of Graham by any of Berczeller's later admirers and biographers indicates that there may have been a falling out between the two. More than ever, he devoted his attention to his work with soyfoods, especially soy flour.
Starting in April 1923 a baker in Vienna began to make and market a soy bread, containing 20% soy flour (produced under a secret process) and 80% wheat flour. Three months later the output had increased to a remarkable 10,000 loaves a day (New York Times 1923). Was this Berczeller's first independent project?
On 10 April 1924 Berczeller applied for his first patent in the United States. Titled “Treatment of Soy Beans” (for making soy flour), it was issued on 16 Sept. 1924 (No. 1,509,076). Some of Berczeller's research during this period was aided by the laboratories of the Skoda Foundation in Czechoslovakia.
During the 1920s and 1930s a general consensus developed among experts in the field, in Europe and the United States, that the soy flour developed by Berczeller and Graham (and later that patented by Berczeller alone) was by far the best to date. The new processing techniques had solved all at once a number of problems inherent in the soybean. This was the West's first soy flour that was free of the disagreeable beany flavor; it had a pleasant, slightly nutty and sweetish flavor. It would also stay fresh for up to 20 months at room temperature after milling, without the natural oils in the flour becoming rancid. In addition, the processing inactivated the soybean trypsin inhibitors, giving a flour with a high nutritional value, and improved the flour's digestibility (Bailey et al. 1935). The result was a whole (full-fat) soy flour with a creamy color. Berczeller's process was remarkably simple and natural: cleaned soybeans were subject to the action of saturated steam for such a short time (12-15 minutes) that they absorbed only a very small amount of water and their protein was left largely unchanged. They were then dried, cracked, dehulled, and ground to a flour. By 1926 Berczeller had improved his process by subjecting the beans or flour to distillation by drying with moving air to remove off flavors; this technique was patented in 1933.
During the early 1920s Berczeller began to travel to promote his ideas about soyfoods and soy flour. In 1924 he attended a soyfoods dinner given by the British Empire League in London; Winston Churchill was also present. The event later led to some media publicity in the Times for soyfoods (Arnould 1960).
Starting in 1923 a steady stream of letters and scientific articles praising Berczeller's soy flour and his work began to appear throughout Central Europe. It is not clear to what extent Berczeller solicited these and to what extent they were written voluntarily and independently. In 1923 Roszony in Budapest showed the pale yellow flour to contain 9.0% moisture, 45.5% protein, 22.4% fat, 0.145% lecithin/phosphoric acid, and 4.8% ash (Loew 1928). In early 1924 Alfred Schwicker, General Manager of the Royal Hungarian Food Ministry, and Dr. Stefan Weiser, Director of the Royal Veterinary Physiological Experiment Station in Budapest, both wrote glowing letters of recommendation for Berczeller's new soy flour to top Hungarian food officials (Loew 1928; Ferree 1929).
Berczeller also received strong public and scientific support from his colleagues in Vienna: Dr. Helene Wastl and Prof. A. Durig of the University of Vienna Physiological Institute; Dr. V.F.A. Richter from the Food Institute; and Dr. H. Prinz and Dean Ernst Kupelwieser of the Institute of Pharmacology. In 1925 Wastl published “The Economic Significance of Soy Flour in Germany” in a scientific journal and in 1926 “Soy Flour as a Food” in the Viennese Medical Weekly. After stating (incorrectly) that Berczeller's flour was made by “fractional distillation,” she gave a nutritional analysis, and the cost of 100 calories from various food sources, showing that soy flour was the least expensive source of calories; 100 calories from the soy flour cost only about 7% as much as 100 calories from lean beef, and that 100 grams of protein from soy flour cost only 3% as much as from lean beef. She mentioned that soy bread (Sojabrot) made with the soy flour was tastier and lasted longer than regular. In 1926 Prof. A. Durig wrote a 13-page article, “The Soy as a Foodstuff,” praising Berczeller's soy flour and his larger work, noting that the flour had kept for two years at room temperature in his laboratory without turning rancid, adding that it held great promise for public institutional feeding programs, as in hospitals and prisons. In 1927 Wastl and Kupelwieser did independent analyses of Berczeller's soy flour. It was shown to contain an average of 44.8% protein, 21.8% fat, and 5.17% ash on a moisture-free basis (Loew 1928). In 1926 Giasotto discussed the nutritional value of Berczeller's soy flour and its potential importance to Italy.
During the 1920s there were severe famines in the USSR, especially in 1921-22 and in 1926, when millions died of hunger. Berczeller had been interested in the USSR since the early 1920s, when he worked with Graham. In 1926 the USSR began to take a great interest in soybeans and began large-scale cultivation. That year Berczeller visited the USSR (presumably they invited him, knowing of his expertise in the fields of soyfoods and European food supplies) and presented a speech on soy flour to the Council of Professors of the Chief Economic Advisory Council in Moscow. It is not known how long Berczeller stayed in the Soviet Union during his first trip, but it is known that he returned there in 1930 and was given the title “Honorary General of the Red Army” (Arnould 1960).
Starting in 1927, after Berczeller's return from the USSR, the number of articles about his work and flour began to increase. In 1927 Wastl wrote “Long-Lasting Soy Flour,” Kupelwieser wrote an article by the same title, John Freud in Ireland discussed Berczeller's flour in a French medical article on soy flour, and Horvath discussed Berczeller's work and flour at length. Dr. T.R. Parsons, Professor of Medical Research at McGill University in Canada, writing in Britain's esteemed medical journal The Lancet, praised Berczeller's soy flour as being the world's least expensive source of protein. In 1928 Prof. Neumann, Director of the Government Hygiene Institute in Hamburg, in extensive and carefully designed nitrogen balance metabolism experiments comparing Berczeller's whole soy flour with solvent-extracted, defatted soy flour and whole soybeans showed that, for both humans and rats, the former was significantly more nutritious and its protein was much better utilized. Rats lived 50% longer on whole soy flour than on defatted. Also in 1928 Dr. Josef Szanto in Hungary discussed the use of Berczeller's flour in diabetic diets. A number of these writers praised this whole soy flour as a very concentrated source of calories, containing 4,730 kcal/kg as compared with 8,000 for butter, 3,900 for sugar, and 3,400 for wheat flour.
In Horvath's influential 1927 article, he noted basic ways and proportions in which Berczeller's flour could be used, and provided a nutritional analysis. One commercial producer was listed as being in operation at Deak-tes 1, Budapest V, Hungary. Berczeller claimed that his flour had no fattening effect despite its high fat content--a fact supposedly due to the particular quality of its lecithin and oil which enabled the human body to utilize them in the organs and tissues instead of storing them as fat. Horvath also noted comments by the Food Ministry of the Hungarian Government, “The soybean flour prepared according to Prof. Berczeller has to be used as a first class popular foodstuff from both points of view--of public health and technology of the foodstuff. The nutritive value of one kilo of Berczeller's soybean flour is equal to two kilos of meat plus a half kilo of wheat flour, but the price of this soybean flour was in 1922 in Austria equal to about one-twelfth of the corresponding price for meat . . . Austria and Hungary are planning to start a very intensive utilization of Berczeller's soybean flour. This flour, being cheap and easy to manufacture in native rice mills, may be of great importance to China.” One hundred pounds of whole soybeans yielded 85 pounds of the flour.
In about 1928 Berczeller began to increase his efforts to promote the use of his soy flour throughout Europe and the World. That year Loew in Vienna compiled a 13-page collection of “Expert Opinions on the Berczeller Soy Flour,” which included a bibliography of 25 publications on the subject. Also in 1928 Berczeller began compilation of three volumes of excerpts from previous publications and special new articles on the subject of soy flour in general and his product in particular. Every conceivable aspect of the various relevant subjects was covered. Volume I, compiled in 1928, contained 13 articles (68 pages), including new articles on “Economic Aspects of the Alimentary Problem” by Freud, “The Use of Berczeller's Soy Flour for Bread Making” and “The Introduction of Soy Flour in Relation to Social Policy” by Frankfurter, plus numerous others. Volume II, compiled in 1929, contained five articles (25 pages), including articles on “The Introduction of Berczeller's Soy Flour to Italy” by Kramer and “On the Use of Berczeller's Soy Flour in War Time” by Dienfeld. Volume II, from 1930, contained seven articles (34 pages), including “Soy Flour. Its Value to the British Confectioner” by Ford and “The Significance of Berczeller's Soy Flour for Great Britain” by Prinz. Bound with these publications were Loew's compilation of “Expert Opinions” an additional set of publications on soy flour from periodicals and newspapers, and an 11-page article by Berczeller on the founding of the Nutritional-Physiological Laboratory at Vienna.
Armed with this extremely impressive array of well-documented studies and articles by reputable scientists, Berczeller put his promotional machine into high gear. As his co-worker Prinz (1944) described it: “He started bombarding governments, scientific institutions, prominent men all over Europe, and even the League of Nations, with letters and scientific papers and pamphlets, describing the extraordinary value of the soybean and of his new, durable soy flour. He explained that soy protein is the only vegetable protein completely utilized by human digestion and equivalent to animal protein. He figured out how many pounds of meat, how many pints of milk, and how many eggs can be replaced in their nutritional value with one pound of his flour. Many of the arguments and facts used today originated with him and his collaborators. But he did not stop there. He developed methods for using his soy flour in the food industry and in institutional and home cooking. He found people with money who formed companies for manufacturing and selling his soy flour, first in Austria and Hungary, then in Holland, England, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and finally in the United States.”
Various references show that in 1928 Berczeller (followed by others) first began to use the term “Edelsoja,” which would later become the name of Germany's most widely used soy flour. In German, the adjective edel means “noble, precious, or superior,” and the verb veredeln means “to ennoble, improve, enrich, refine, or purify.”
In 1929 The Soya Bean and the New Soya Flour by C.J. Ferree (translated from the Dutch by the author and J. T. Tussaud), was published by Heinemann in London. The 80-page book described the flour and its many uses, gave formulas for using the flour in the food industry and foodservice institutions, and included 9 pages of home recipes. Unfortunately it contained almost no information about Berczeller or how the flour was made. A laboratory analysis done in London in January 1929 showed that the flour contained 44.2% protein, 20.6% fat, and 11.1% moisture. It was recommended that the flour be used at the 10% level in breads, although almost no difference was said to be noticed at 20%. Adding 10% soy flour to whole wheat bread increased the protein in the bread by 24%, i.e. from 14.5-18.0%, while in white bread it increased the protein by 28.6%, i.e. from 12.3-15.8%. Because soy flour replaced part of the milk, the bread cost less, and it stayed fresh longer. Also in 1929 Prinz published an article on “Making the Nutrition of the People More Rational through Soyfoods and Soy Flour.”
During the late 1920s, in addition to his extensive work with soy flour, Berczeller was also deeply interested in Europe's larger food problems. His outlook was truly Continental. In 1926 Berczeller and Wastl, apparently both then from the University of Vienna Physiological Institute, published a two-part article “On the Problem of Nutrition in Europe,” which was published as a separate 20-page booklet in 1927. They discussed nutrition and political economy, did statistical analyses of exports, imports, and national food self sufficiency in both protein and calories. They asked big, new, important questions, and their findings showed conclusively that Europe's agricultural base could not begin to feed its people, who were in fact less well nourished than before World War I. During this same period Berczeller wrote a 191-page book on Basics for Teaching the Influence of Foodstuffs, published in Budapest.
Production of Berczeller's Soy Flour. By the early 1930s Berczeller was widely recognized as being the foremost expert on and proponent of soyfoods in Europe. He now began to focus his attention on expanding commercial production of his flour. We have seen that some of his flour was probably being made in Vienna as early as 1923, and in Budapest by 1926 or 1927. In 1929 plants were busy in both places, and a second plant was under consideration in Budapest because of the large demand there (Food Manufacture 1929). According to Neumann (1928, Archiv fuer Hygiene), Hansa Muehle defatted soy flour and Berczeller's whole soy flour were the two most popular soy flours in Germany during the 1920s. It is not clear where Berczeller's soy flour was being made in Germany at this time. In 1929 Soya Foods Ltd. and the Soyolk Society in Rickmansworth, Herts (North London), England, finished building a factory and began to produce Soyolk brand soy flour by the Berczeller process, using a special milling technique. By 1932 Soyolk was reported to be used increasingly in English foods, partially to replace eggs, milk, and chocolate. In 1929 or 1930 the Soyex Company brought Berczeller's process to the US and built a plant in Nutley, New Jersey. By the mid-1930s they were making Soyex flour, pound cake, thickened salad dressing, Soyex chocolate drink, health cookies, sugar cookies, and soy-fortified bread. By 1930 the soy flour was also being produced in Germany and The Netherlands (Food Manufacture 1929 Jan., 1929 Feb., 1931; 1932; Horvath 1931b, 1933; Gray 1936). In 1931 Kon and Markuze purchased Edelsoja brand soy flour, made by the “secret Berczeller process” from the Austrian Soja-Aktiengesellschaft in Vienna. Their analysis showed it to have a biological value of 1.57.
Berczeller continued to be issued patents until 1933 (Canadian patent 329,530), and continued to work on improving his soy flour process until about 1936. He studied and resolved a number of side problems connected with soy flour production; special milling techniques, utilization of by-products, uses of soy protein as adhesives, and difficulties in nutrition and in the psychology of flavor. Some of the patents that he applied for and was issued during the late 1920s and 1930s, listed by country and date of application, include:
Britain: “A Process for Preventing the Oxidation of Soya Beans and Bran Obtained Therefrom” (1930. No. 367,865), “Process for the Manufacture of Soya Bean Flour” (1930. No. 361,956), “An Improved Process for Treating Soya Beans” (1932. No. 393,146).
France: “Process for Treating Natural Materials Containing Lecithin” (1930), “Process for Preventing Oxidation or Rancidity of Vegetable or Animal Products” (1930), Process of Improvement of Fatty and Oily Plant Products Containing Proteins that Can be Coagulated under the Action of Heat” (1932).
Czechoslovakia: “Process for Improving Soybeans” (1928 issued; No. 25,880).
Austria: His wife, Selma, was granted an Austrian patent on a “Process for the Refining of Oil, Especially that Containing Coagulable Protein” (1929; No. 133,383).
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, as Berczeller's soy flour came to be produced throughout Europe, he traveled much more extensively. He arranged interviews with heads of state and key industry leaders to discuss his work with soyfoods, while methodically studying possible applications in various countries and larger food questions. In 1927 the Italian Ministry of War established a Commission for the Study of Soya (Commissione per lo Studio della Soja). They published a 75-page article in the Journal of Military Medicine (Giornale de Medicina Militaire) on soy flour, soy bread, and the results of feeding Berczeller soy flour to human beings. In early 1929 Berczeller met with Mussolini, who declared his intention of introducing legislation to require the use of soy flour in the manufacture of polenta (the corn/maize staple food) and of bread (Food Manufacture 1929). He also visited Joseph Stalin, President Franklin Roosevelt's secretary Dorothy Thompson, and numerous army personnel worldwide. He lived for a long time in London and by 1932 had many contacts with members of the conservative party, who envisioned a food policy and politics for Europe. In 1929 he contacted top people in the French government about using soy flour for human nutrition. He also traveled to Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Portugal, always teaching and learning about soy. For specialists he demonstrated recipes for using soy flour in bread, biscuits, macaroni, chocolate, pastries, sausages, soups, sauces, mustard, tidbits, etc.
In 1931 Horvath wrote “Soya Flour as a National Food,” the best overview to date of the use of soy flour, with a detailed review of the uses in Europe and of Berczeller's Soyolk. He found Soyolk to contain 42.1% protein and 19.6% fat. He praised Berczeller for his noble gesture of making a gift of his patented procedure to the Children's Welfare Society in Hungary, and reported that F.A. Richter, baking expert at the nutrition laboratory of Vienna, had done extensive testing using various percentages of Soyolk in bread, detecting no change in flavor or texture. Reported advantages of using Soyolk were longer keeping qualities, higher bread yield, higher “caloric value,” better “bloom” on the crust, lighter dark rye breads, and all this with good flavor. Moreover, using the recommended 6½-18% Soyolk saved money by reducing usage of milk, eggs, oil, milk, yeast, and malt. Up to 50% Soyolk had been used in sausages, acceptably. Professor Moll of the State Institute for Mothers and Children in Vienna obtained very good results using Soyolk in diets of weak and tubercular children.
All this was good news. However, the fact that Berczeller had developed a high-quality flour and was having it produced and publicized, did not mean that it quickly became widely used. “The main obstacles to its spread were the conservatism of the prospective users, bakers, and other food manufacturers, as well as managers of restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions, and--last but not least--housewives: and the indifferent or even hostile attitude of the respective governments.”
Furthermore, the fact that Berczeller's process was carefully protected by patents did not spare him from legal problems. Soy flour manufacturers in Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the US claimed that their processes, while close to that developed by Berczeller, were sufficiently different that they did not have to pay him his licensing fees. Severe legal battles ensued in the early 1930s and Berczeller lost all three cases. In each case his powerful industrial adversaries attempted to besmirch his name and scientific reputation, and he suffered greatly. Wearied by this struggle, he did not publish his later process improvements, preferring to keep them secret (Arnould 1960).
However, he won a court case in 1934, in Germany, where his work triumphed. His patents had been used by the Hansa Muehle company of Hamburg to manufacture his full-fat soy flour, which was apparently sold under the name Edelsoja (“noble soy”), a term reportedly coined by Berczeller in about 1928 and later used as the name for the soy flour extensively used by the German Army (see Chapt. 47). It is not clear when Hansa Muehle started making soy flour under Berczeller's license or how much they eventually made. In 1932 Dr. Hans Weiss‒for many years the well-known head of the German Federation for Food Laws and Food Education in Bad Honnef‒and some of his friends evolved the idea of making and selling soyfoods in Germany. For this purpose they founded the firm Edelsoja that year; it was run for the next 40 years by Walter Klein. It is not clear what relationship existed between Berczeller and the principals of this firm or how they acquired the rights from Berczeller to use the name “Edelsoja.” Was Berczeller one of the founders?; a stockholder?; a consultant? In any event, a number of his products, based on soy flour, were sold by the firm and their excellent quality was widely recognized (Arnould 1960; Edelsoja 1976).
Shortly after Hitler came to power in the mid-1930s, the huge and powerful I.G. Farben-trust, a company which controlled most of the chemical industry in Germany and was interconnected with most of the chemical industry all over the world, acquired the license to the Berczeller patent rights for Germany, Austria, and possibly some other countries (Prinz 1944). Because Germany had a chronic protein and oil deficit, the country imported roughly a million tons of soybeans as a reserve before World War II. A large percentage of these soybeans was reportedly treated by the Berczeller soy flour process, a real tribute to his vision yet an ironic tragedy that his humanitarian efforts would end up supporting the violence and anti-Semitism of the Nazis (Arnould 1960). It is not clear, however, why the Edelsoja soy flour mentioned throughout the German Army Soya Cookbook (Oberkommando 1938) reportedly contained 61.5% protein, when that made by the Berczeller process typically had only about 45-46%. In any case, as the clouds of war gathered over Europe, interest in Berczeller's soy flour grew dramatically.
In 1932 Berczeller made important contacts with people in France, especially M. Arnould, who would later be his biographer. Berczeller asked that his work with soy be presented to various French scientific organizations. One of the principal objectives was the development of a bread fortified with 5% soy flour to be used by the French Army. However France was then plagued by agricultural surpluses so it was suggested that Berczeller's ideas be filed to be reconsidered when the next war broke out! That was exactly what happened. In 1932 Berczeller shared with Arnould some of his large scale plans. He was extremely interested in various international organizations and foresaw the need for an international laboratory for the study of nutrition and food. He explained that he would someday like to bequeath his fortune, which was very large, to such an organization. His ideals and goals were in close accord with those of the International Institute for Food and Agriculture prior to 1939 and of FAO after the War. He was extremely interested in India, and he confided to Arnould in 1932 that introducing soyfoods to India might be the main goal of his life.
In 1934, as anti-Semitism was increasing in Germany, Berczeller was divorced by his German wife, Selma, who turned pro-Aryan/Nazi (Arnould 1960). This was a great blow. She may have ended up working with Meals for Millions at Cal Tech in California under the name Madame Soulange Berczeller (de Kruif 1945; Pearl S. Buck 1949).
By the mid-1930s Berczeller's soy flour was widely praised in the USA, although little is known of the amount produced by the Soyex Company in New Jersey. In 1935 Bailey, Capan and LeClerc wrote a very influential article about soy flour; in their opinion, Berczeller's soy flour was the world's finest.
In 1936 the British writer Gray noted that “On the Continent, the most popular method of using soy flour is in the form of Prof. Berczeller's patent soy flour . . . I am informed by the Commercial Secretary to the British Embassy in Berlin that a well-known firm, the Edelsoja-Praktikum of Berlin, after scientific investigation, has adopted Professor Berczeller's flour as a regular human food and is in the course of placing their methods and proposals before British firms.” An ad in Gray's book stated that Soyolk was the pioneer edible soya flour. It was sold in 1-pound cartons with recipes for use in diabetic and vegetarian diets. Soyvita was a special bread made from a mixture of 22% Soyolk with 78% wheat flour.
In October 1939 Mr. Arnould asked the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) to invite Dr. Berczeller to France. He arrived in Paris via Geneva with an introduction from the Secretary General of the League of Nations. He worked with Arnould and others at Toulouse in 1939-40 on a program of soybean growing in Southern France. During part of this time he worked and studied in Paris, at CNRS and with Prof. Cliouard, concerning the introduction of soy flour in the army's food.
Berczeller as a Person. From all accounts, Berczeller was a remarkable man. Prinz (1944), his colleague in Vienna, described him as an idealistic and dynamic man, such that almost everyone who met him was strongly attracted by his personality and ideas. Arnould (1960) stated that “Dr. Berczeller was certainly a very remarkable person intellectually and morally. His large scale programs for the scientific study of food proteins and economics were but a projection of his personality on the social reality of the world. In his domain he succeeded technically, scientifically, and practically. He foresaw the future clearly. He was almost a hero and prophet of the drama of the underdeveloped and undernourished countries, and offered one of the keys to the solution to this problem. His breadth of knowledge was vast in both his area of specialty and in such human fields as history, politics, and art. He had an insatiable curiosity. He read a lot and quickly. He spoke Hungarian, German, English, and fairly good French. He published some 280 scientific journal articles. He was also a pioneer in biometrics and in the statistical and economic study of food and agriculture in various countries. He maintained a perpetual faith in the potential of international organizations and the fecundity of the international point of view over that of the individual nation states.”
World War II and Aftermath. The invasion of France and the Nazi occupation from June 1940 stopped Berczeller's work with soy. As a Jew, he was forced into hiding until after the Liberation in the spring of 1945. For a while in 1940 Berczeller worked with the Quaker Aid Service, a group near Toulouse trying to import soy-based infant formula from the US. The Quakers helped him greatly, but were unsuccessful in trying to rectify injustices to him. The war period took a great toll on him; he emerged malnourished, physically wasted, and beset by attacks of asthma and bronchitis. The greatest potential for the use of soy flour in Europe came after the war, when entire nations suffered protein-calorie malnutrition. But Berczeller was too weak to supervise such work and, according to Arnould, human and political complications and incompetence, time and again prevented soy flour and soybeans imported from the US from being able to help combat malnutrition and hunger (Arnould 1960).
Professor Berczeller was impoverished as well as being sick and unknown. In 1947 he told Arnould that he estimated his unpaid royalties from Hitler's German soy flour producers amounted to 5 million pounds sterling; he finally recouped the rights but never the money he was owed.
In Switzerland in about 1948 he underwent an operation for a pulmonary fistula following a thoracic traumatism originating in his asthma and complicated by cardiac problems. He recovered partly but, old, sick, and ruined, he gradually lost his equilibrium and was no longer able to conduct his complex and delicate affairs and studies. One day in 1949 he fainted in the Paris subway. He was hospitalized at the Lariboisière Hospital. In 1951 he was sent to a psychiatric hospital in Saint Remy.
In 1953 Dr. Berczeller came under the care of Prof. H. Baruk, who wrote in 1974 (in French): In 1953 Prof. Verzar, of the Institute of Physiology at the University Basel (Bâle, Basle, Switzerland), moved by the sad condition of Dr. Berczeller, asked us to take him into our care. We promptly installed him in the best possible room under our care at Saint-Maurice [Saint-Maurice Mental Home; Maison de Santé de Saint-Maurice) in Switzerland) where he entered on 20 June 1953.
According to the certificates that were sent to us, we have the impression that the actual statements of Dr. Berczeller had sometimes been interpreted as the ideas of a megalomaniac, or one making great claims, because there was talk about mental imbalance, of paranoid tendencies, making great claims, of inability to adapt.
Everyone agreed that Dr. Berczeller would have been much better off in a rest home (maison de repos) in Switzerland but there were no funds.
Dr. Clive McCay, soy flour pioneer from Cornell University, visited Dr. Berczeller while on his sabbatical in Europe. He later wrote: “On Easter Sunday, Prof. Verzar of the University of Basel, invited my wife and me to accompany him in visiting a former Hungarian scientist now confined in a French mental hospital with several hundreds of foreign insane. Much to my surprise the patient proved to be L. Berczeller, whose name I have known for years because of his pioneering work in developing methods for the manufacture of soy flour. The Professor asked me if I thought anyone in the soy industry would be willing to contribute toward housing Berczeller in a private hospital in Switzerland. He says this can be done for about 5 dollars a day. I told him that I was very pessimistic about any altruism from the soy industry since I have long worked with their products and had never had the slightest assistance from them. I told him I believed this industry even lacked enlightened self interest but that I would be glad to present this picture for publication in the Soybean Digest. Dr. Berczeller is often called the discoverer of soy flour” (Baruck 1974). Fifty letters were then sent to soy processors; only one response was received, and that, $10, arrived on the eve of Dr. Berczeller's death at Saint Maurice Mental Home on 14 November 1955. He died at age 65 (not age 70).
He was buried free of charge (for five years) in the hospital's graveyard then transferred in 1967 to a place acquired for 10 years by Mr. Arnould. In 1974 the city of Paris was looking for a permanent resting place for this great man, who had worked so hard to try to ease misery and hunger in the world.
Edelsoja, a natural full-fat soy flour, is still sold in Germany today by the Edelsoja GmbH of Hamburg. Since 1973 their sales have skyrocketed. At the front of their corporate brochure is a description of the firm's origins, but no mention is made of Berczeller and the present owners, when asked, said they have never heard of him.
Little is known of the influence Berczeller's work had on postwar soyfoods enthusiasts. By 1947 Winkler in Vienna was making soy flour, but is not known whether or not he used Berczeller's method. Brillmayer, likewise, was very active with both soybean production and soyfoods utilization.
In 1944 Berczeller's work came to be known by soybean enthusiasts in the USA via a short article by his colleague Martin V.H. Prinz, “It Began in Vienna: The Dramatic Story of Soy Flour” published in Soybean Digest (March, p. 4).
In 1960 Arnould, a close friend of Berczeller's, wrote a 16-page biographical article, “The Life and Works of Dr. Berczeller and Soyfoods” published (in French) in the Revue d’Histoire de la Medicine Hebraique (Revue of the History of Jewish Medicine; Dec. p. 153-68). A similar but shorter biography by Henri Baruk, “Berczeller and the Soybean: The Problem of Hunger,” was published in 1974 (in French) in the (Histoire des Sciences Medicales; April/June, p. 235-39).
Today, soy flour (although defatted rather than whole soy flour) is one of the most popular soy ingredients in the Western world. Few realize the major role that Laszlo Berczeller played in bringing this about.