A survey of leading scientists, journalists and opinion-makers has found that of the great scientific advances of the last hundred years, none has been as valuable to humanity as the groundbreaking combination of antiperspirant and deodorant perfected by Leopold Heinkel and his Berlin team in the 1960s.
Of course, perfumed deodorants have been around since 9th century Persia, and the modern antiperspirant was patented by Jules Montenier in 1941. Both inventions proved popular in their own way, but still left the user with the thorny dilemma of, when preparing to go out, whether to deodorise (and sweat) or to prevent perspiration (but smell). Never was it thought possible that two such useful preparations could be combined.
Not until 20 years after Montenier's antiperspirant discovery did Heinkel finally achieve the process of fusion with a leading-brand deodorant. At last, the millions who had quailed before the agonising choice of "wet or stinky" could finally leave their homes and interact with other humans again, and the sixties population explosion began in earnest.
Heinkel's was not an overnight triumph. His first experiment - attempting to combine antidepressants with deodorants - was an unmitigated disaster, and it is well-known that his first dabbles with antiperspirants made the sweat prevention become much too powerful and caused many deaths from internal drowning.
Some commentators have suggested that the use of science to prevent sweat and odour is perhaps trivial compared with some of the other advances in modern times. But this was pooh-poohed by Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, chairman of the Royal Scientific Society, who remembered the excitement of the discovery.
"It was groundbreaking in nearly every sense. When the antiperspirant came along in the forties I was as keen as anyone to stop sweating like a pig, but unfortunately still stank like a wanking baboon. Then, in those heady days of the sixties, I could finally get close enough to charm a woman without dripping all over her, and my virginity was at last extinguished. And I've been shagging ever since, frankly."