Until Eva Ekeblad came along the presence of potatoes in much of Europe was, well, small potatoes. In Sweden the potato was mostly restricted to aristocratic greenhouses and thought of as animal feed.
After learning that people in Germany were making liquor from potatoes, the Swedish agronomist grew her own batch and began experimenting. The breakthrough came in 1746 when Ekeblad discovered that a flour could be made from cooking, drying, and crushing potatoes. She also figured out how to distill them to make vodka. In 1748, Ekeblad became the first woman elected to Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences — it would be more than 200 years before the next one was elected.
Ekeblad’s discoveries coincided with a food shortage in Sweden and to helped avert a national famine. They also led to a spike in alcohol consumption in the country. Skål, Eva! Happy 293rd.