Water Taste in Mammals

  • Linda M. Bartoshuk


Opinions about the taste of pure water can be traced back as far as Aristotle (384–322 b.c.). He believed that “Water in its own nature has no flavour” (Hammond, 1902, p. 164). We do not know how pure Aristotle’s water sources were, but the process of distilling water is known to be very old. Sarton (1931) tentatively attributed a treatise on distilled water to the first half of the 12th century. Avicenna (980–1037), one of the most influential of the Arabian physicians, mentioned the distilling of water as a technique of purifying it in The Canon of Medicine (Gruner, 1930). Avicenna, like Aristotle, believed that pure water is tasteless. This belief was not seriously challenged until the 19th century. Henle (1880) and Öhrwall (1891) concluded that distilled water is flat or insipid rather than truly tasteless. About this same time, other investigators began to notice that some subjects reported that pure water tasted bitter (Camerer, 1870; Kiesow, 1894; Skramlik, 1922). Brown (1914) obtained evaluations of water from 100 subjects. About 50% of the judgments were “no taste,” 25% were “bitter,” and the remaining 25% were varied. Brown concluded, “The upshot of all of these observations seems to be that water is not tasteless (in the broader sense of the word), that it tastes more like bitter than anything else” (p. 253).


Cystic Fibrosis Fiber Type Squirrel Monkey Sweet Taste Taste Quality 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda M. Bartoshuk
    • 1
  1. 1.John B. Pierce Foundation LaboratoryNew HavenUSA

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