Ernest H. Polak was born in Amersfoort, The Netherlands in 1921. He grew up in The Netherlands, where he was involved with the family business Polak’s Frutal Works (PFW).
In 1939 he moved to New York City and joined PFW in Long Island City. At night he studied at Columbia University, and Brooklyn Polytech and earned his BS degree in Chemistry from NYU. In 1943 he finished his chemistry studies as a teaching fellow at Iowa State University where he earned his MS degree in Chemistry in 1944 with a thesis on the composition of the essential oil of Anise hyssop. He then joined Hoffman LaRoche in New Jersey as a researcher.
In 1945 he joined PFW again, which had moved its headquarters to Middletown NY, where he was Vice President for Research and Development until the firm’s merger with Hercules in 1973. In the years in Middletown he trained a number of flavorists.
In 1975 Ernest and his wife moved to Paris, France. The central research laboratories of PFW had remained in The Netherlands and Ernest built it back up again after the ravages of the war. He got involved with gas chromatography combined with spectroscopy revolutionizing the flavor industry. He was proud that his company was the first in the flavor industry to acquire a high-resolution double focusing mass-spectrometer.
From that time on he fostered his wide interest in chemoreception through a host of academic contacts and collaborations.
In the autumn 2004, Ernest and Ghislaine Polak made a large endowment to ECRO (European Chemoceception Research Organisation) and AChemS, (Association for Chemoreception Sciences) established as “The Elsje Werner-Polak Memorial Fund in memory of our niece, gassed by the Nazis in 1944 at age 7”. The annual income from this endowment is distributed to AChemS and ECRO proportionately to the number of members in each organisation as is pledged for. Ernest Polak passed away in 2005.
His message to flavorists was: “A flavorist is best off when he / she learns the tools of this beautiful craft in depth, keeps up to date, tries to be original and imaginative, and resolutely resists the pressure of being an imitator of competitor’s flavors.”
The Society of Flavor Chemists awarded Ernest honorary membership on October 10, 1985.
Join our network of members devoted to the advancement of the field of flavor technology and related sciences.