Saccharin (Molecule of the Month for October 2004)
Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener; it was discovered in 1879 by Ira Remsen and Constantin Fahlberg of Johns Hopkins University.
Saccharin's sweetness was accidentally discovered by Ira Remsen, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Constantin Fahlberg, a research fellow working in Remsen's lab. In 1879, while working with coal tar derivatives, Remsen discovered saccharin's sweetness at dinner after not thoroughly washing his hands. Sadly, in 1884, Fahlberg patented and mass-produce saccharin without ever mentioning Remsen.
Saccharin is about 300 times as sweet as sucrose, but has an unpleasant bitter or metallic aftertaste, especially at high concentrations. Unlike the newer artificial sweetener aspartame, saccharin is stable when heated, even in the presence of acids, does not react chemically with other food ingredients, and stores well. Blends of saccharin with other sweeteners are often used to compensate for each sweetener's weaknesses. A 10:1 cyclamate:saccharin blend is common in countries where both these sweeteners are legal; in this blend, each sweetener masks the other's off-taste. Saccharin is often used together with aspartame in diet fountain beverages, so that some sweetness remains should the fountain syrup be stored beyond aspartame's relatively short shelf life.
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for October 2004 )