- 1911 -
Fruit Scientist William V. Cruess, Ph.D. 

Cruess_William_from_UC_Davis_Centennial.jpg     William V Cruess, Ph.D. (1886 – 1968) grew up in San Miguel, California during the state’s fruit boom.  Educated at Berkeley and Stanford, specialized in zymology (study of fermentation).  In his path to a career as a food scientist, he assisted Dr. Frederic Bioletti (1865-1939), a specialist in wine and grapes.  Employed with the University of California at Berkeley from 1911 to 1965, he fulfilled the more typical roles of any faculty member, teaching, research, and writing.  However, his research interest in processing fruits led him out of the laboratory and into the factories and fields.  This was not common among most early food scientists, most stayed in the lab.  In 1942, the Institute of Food Technologists honored Cruess with one of its most prestigious awards, the Nicholas Appert Award, for lifetime achievement. 

      One example of Cruess’ work was with the olive industry.  He helped them establish the processing of green olives, which before that time was not economically feasible.  The benefit of selling pickled green olives was that olive growers could use more of their crop.  His work took him to Spain where he met with Spanish olive growers and processors to discover new varieties, how they operated, and how they dealt with particular problems, such as olive discoloration and processing time.  Green olives became a successful product for the olive industry.  In this work at Berkeley and helping food processers, he also worked to help develop fruit cocktail and figure out the link between botulism and canned foods.  Read more about these projects in other articles.Land Grant Universitya.png

      Cruess took the knowledge he gained working with food processors and passed it on in many ways.  He taught at Berkeley and included lessons on production and the scientific analysis of a canned product.  Cruess was an active writer, publishing in academic journals, USDA bulletins, and for extensions newsletters and circular.  He wrote a definitive textbook titled Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Products first published in 1924 and updated four times by 1958.  Through his many publications for extension programs and USDA bulletins, he educated the public and the industry by explaining the various methods of canning and preservation.  Home economics teachers, home canners, and extension agents wrote to him for advice.  His canning bulletins became vital during the push for home canning during World War II. 

      During World War II, Cruess and his colleagues worked on two major projects.  One was a military nutrition research project that sought to create the best rations possible.  Another major research focus was dried vegetables.  Getting nutrition and calories to the front was vital. 

      Cruess was passionate about improving fruit products from the field to the table.  This led to his involvement during his long career with all of the major fruit processing groups in California, fruit canners, driers, olive processors, and winemakers.  While some scholars may question his objectivity for working with industry, for Cruess, his work with canneries was a reciprocal relationship.  He was able to gain access to huge amounts of information from canneries and orchards that would have been very difficult for him to obtain otherwise.  While Berkeley did develop two agricultural experiment farms, at Davis and Riverside, it took decades.  During Cruess’ early years of research, facilities for full production research were not available.  Businesses that consulted him gained valuable expertise in improving production and overcoming problems as company research labs were not common during this time.  This arrangement also allowed resource sharing in a newer, developing regions.  He took the knowledge that he gained and passed it on to future cannery managers and executives that attended the University of California and by publishing in science journals, he was able to pass along research to the scientific community.  Thus, in his perspective, he was creating a better, safer, more reliable food supply for America,

     Today, the Institute of Food Technologists gives out the William Cruess award for teaching food science and technology.  This is fitting given his career and his role in founding this organization.  William Cruess is one of the many food scientists that emerged in the early twentieth century as part of the creation of a commercial, industrial food supply in America.  While his career was exemplary, it illustrates the growing role of university food scientists in food production.  The transformation of America’s food system played a role in the transition of America to modernity and illustrates the rapidity of that change. 


Cruess, W. V. Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Products; a Textbook for Student, Investigator and Manufacturer. 2d ed ed. Mcgraw-Hill Publications in the Agricultural Sciences; L. J. Cole, Consulting Editor. New York and London: McGraw-Hill book company, inc, 1938.

Cruess, W. V. and G. L. Marsh. Utilization of California Fruits. Berkeley, CA: University of California Agricultural Experiment Station, 1941.

Leonard, Sherman. Dr. William V. Cruess - His Contribution to the Canning Industry.

Pelfrey, Patricia A. A Brief History of the University of California. 2nd ed ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004.

William V. Cruess Papers.  University of California Davis, Peter Shields Library, Special Collections, D-053.