Monument of the sugar cube in Dacice, photo: Vít Luštinec, CC BY 3.0 Unported

In this week's Mailbox: Find out the answer to last month's listeners' competition and the name of the lucky winner! We quote from e-mails sent by John Sheppard, Phil McVey, UK; Angelia Beranek, Australia; Marnix Barbiers, Deirdre Murray, Belgium; Andy Delfino, USA; Teodor Shepertycki, Canada.

Monument of the sugar cube in Dacice,  photo: Vít Luštinec,  CC BY 3.0 Unported
Welcome to Mailbox. It's the first Sunday of February which means it's time to reveal the mystery person from our January competition - the inventor of the sugar cube - and also announce the lucky winner.

Some of you suggested the inventor was the German industrialist Eugen Langen from Cologne. According to available sources he indeed patented a method of producing sugar in cube form in Germany, but much later than the man we are looking for. Many of you also guessed Henry Tate who, apparently, bought the rights from Eugen Langen and introduced the Langen cube process to the United Kingdom.

Different sources give different dates, but in the case of these two gentlemen, we are talking about the 1870s. Our mystery man made the discovery some thirty years earlier and - this being Radio Prague - there needs to be a Czech connection. So let's hear some of your answers. This one came from John Sheppard from England:

"There seems to be general agreement that the sugar cube was invented at Dacice, in 1843. Since 1983 there has been a granite memorial in the town square. In 1840 the refinery had recruited a new director from Vienna, Jakub Krystof Rad, a native of Rheinfelden, Switzerland. He introduced new machinery and new products, including the production of what we now call sugar cubes. Of course there is some dispute, accordingly, as to whether this was a Swiss, Austrian or Czech invention."

And Angelia Beranek from Australia sent us the story behind the invention:

"The [sugar cube] was invented by Jakub Krystof Rad in 1841 in Dacice, Bohemia, after his wife had cut her hand badly trying to cut into a huge lump of sugar. He pondered the problem and several months after the incident he presented her with a gift-wrapped package which contained 350 red and white sugar cubes, which he had invented. There is a plaque to his memory in the town and it also boasts a big sugar cube made of granite in his memory. He must have been a very busy man as he fathered 16 children with his wife Julianna."

Phil McVey from Cornwall, UK, actually visited the hometown of the sugar cube.

The model of a sugar refinery
"Much to the annoyance of the English, who would like to think that sugar cubes are as English as a nice cup of tea, the cube was invented in 1841 in Dacice, South Bohemia by the director of a Czech sugar beet factory (Jakub Rad). By the way Dacice also happens to be a typically pleasant South Bohemian town, where you can also see a large granite cube in honour of Mr Rad - worth a small detour for anyone visiting Telc. Interestingly, when the Icelandic group Sugar Cubes played in Dacice they 'rediscovered' an absinthe cocktail and allegedly started an absinthe revival in the UK!"

This e-mail came from our regular listener, Marnix Barbiers from Belgium.

"His name was Jakub Krystof Rad, a sugar refinery director in Bohemia. He wanted to make sugar more practical to handle after his wife cut her hands on the manipulation of huge lumps of sugar. So he got the idea of the sugar cube in 1841. A patent and a first production line were in place in 1843."

Deirdre Murray, who's Irish, also follows Radio Prague in Belgium.

The sugar press
"Mr Jakub Krystof Rad, the director of a sugar refinery invented the first sugar cube in 1843 in Dacice. I visited Dacice in August 2004 while spending a week in Telc. It was a really nice day and I saw the monument of the Sugarcube. As I was with my own personal Czech sugar cube, it was a really sweet moment of my life."

The story of Jakub Krystof Rad reminded Andy Delfino, USA, of another useful invention...

"By the way, Rad's invention of the sugar cube is very similar to the invention of the BandAid personal bandage: Earle Dickson, an employee of Johnson & Johnson when the company made large surgical dressings, invented smaller personal versions of bandages for his accident-prone wife. Evidently it was an invention bred from the necessity of finding a way to bandage his wife's frequent wounds when no one was around to help her. Thanks for the great question! I'm always glad to learn something interesting about something that's usually taken for granted. Are contact lenses next? My Czech father-in-law always tells me how they were invented in his native land!"

I'm afraid the contact lenses would be too easy for Radio Prague's listeners. But you'll find out what the new question is in just a while - after we announce the name of the lucky winner. And this time it is Teodor Shepertycki from Ottawa, Canada. Congratulations and let's hear what he had to say:

"The amazing power of women to influence the course of history has been amply demonstrated in the past. But, little did I know that this extended to the ubiquitous sugar cube. If my information is correct it appears that Julianna Radova urged her Swiss husband, Jakub Krystof Rad, to develop a safer means of producing sugar for the public. To commemorate this event, a granite memorial of a sugar cube was built in one of the squares in Dacice in 1983. And, in the summer of 2003, the town also unveiled a plaque in recognition of its honorary citizen."

Congratulations and your prize is in the post! Thank you very much for your answers and the interesting stories. Now, here's another chance to win a Radio Prague goodie bag. Let's hear the question for February.

"An ancient people, known to us as Hittites, lived in what is now Turkey, in the 2nd millennium BC. They spoke an Indo-European language which was deciphered by a Czech archaeologist at the beginning of the 20th century. He was also the one who determined the Hittites' language was indeed Indo-European."

Please send us your answers by the end of February, to [email protected] or to our postal address, Radio Prague, 12099 Prague 2, Czech Republic. Till next week, thanks for listening and good bye.