I have perused your late mathematical Prize Question, proposed in lieu of one in Natural Philosophy, for the ensuing year…Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your consideration, and through you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, &c. of this enlightened Age.
It is universally well known, that in digesting our common food, there is created or produced in the bowels of human creatures, a great quantity of wind.
That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid smell that accompanies it.
That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such offence, forcibly restrain the efforts of nature to discharge that wind.
That so retained contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present pain, but occasions future diseases such as habitual cholics, ruptures, tympanies, &c., often destructive of the constitution and sometimes of life itself.
Were it not for the odiously offensive smell accompanying such escapes, polite people would probably be under no more restraint in discharging such wind in company, than they are in spitting, or in blowing their noses.
My prize question therefore should be, To discover some drug wholesome and not disagreeable, to be mixed with our common food, or sauces, that shall render the natural discharges, of wind from our bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreeable as Perfumes.
That this is not a chimerical Project, and altogether impossible, may appear from these considerations. That we already have some knowledge of the means capable of varying that smell. He that dines on stale flesh, especially with much addition of onions, shall be able to afford a stink that no company can tolerate; while he that has lived for some time on vegetables only, shall have that breath so pure as to be insensible to the most delicate noses; and if he manage so as to avoid the report, he may any where give vent to his griefs unnoticed….
Benjamin Franklin. (Personally I don’t know which is worse, farts or perfume.)