William A. Mitchell

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Dr. William A. "Bill" Mitchell (October 21, 1911 – July 26, 2004) was an American food chemist who, while working for General Foods Corporation between 1941 and 1976, was the key inventor behind Pop Rocks, Tang, quick-set Jell-O, Cool Whip, and powdered egg whites.[1] During his career he received over 70 patents.

He was born in Raymond, Minnesota. Mitchell graduated with a Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Nebraska. Mitchell got a research job at an Agricultural Experiment Station in Lincoln, Nebraska. A lab accident there left him with second- and third-degree burns over most of his body.[2] He joined General Foods in 1941. His first major success came with a tapioca substitute he helped develop during World War II, in response to the disruption of cassava supplies. Because of this, tapioca quickly became known as "Mitchell mud" within the US WW II infantry.[2]

Although Pop Rocks weren't sold until 1975, he received patent 3,012,893 for its manufacturing process in 1961. Mitchell was a resident of Lincoln Park, New Jersey for many years before moving out west after his retirement in 1976.[3]

He was married to Ruth Cobbey Mitchell and they had seven children: Bill, Charlie, Mike, John, Jan, Steve and Cheryl. He moved to Stockton after her death in 1999. Mitchell died of heart failure on July 26, 2004, at the age of 92 in Stockton, California where he was living with his daughter.[4]


  1. ^ Staff. "Inventor of Pop Rocks William Mitchell, 92", Bangor Daily News, July 30, 2004. Accessed May 3, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Tastemaker With a Sweet Tooth, a November 2004 post mortem article (also available here) from The Atlantic
  3. ^ Carroll, Kathleen. "William Mitchell, inventor of Pop Rocks", The Record (Bergen County), July 30, 2004. Accessed May 3, 2011. "William A. Mitchell, a longtime Lincoln Park resident whose inventions included Pop Rocks candy, died Monday in a Stockton, Calif., retirement home. He was 92."
  4. ^ via [Edit by Dr. Cheryl R. Mitchell]. "William Mitchell; Inventor of Pop Rocks", The Washington Post, August 2, 2004. Accessed May 3, 2011.