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Mathematics and Perfumery: An Examination of Arithmetical Methodology

Contact Author Nigel O. Priest,
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To many perfumers, the title of this article may suggest a shockingly heretical idea. Perfumery, after all, is very much an art form, in which the creativity and imagination of the perfumer is encouraged to the full in the design of perfumes of outstanding beauty. Mathematics is a science of extreme discipline, in which imagination is necessarily restricted, and creativity usually ends in disaster.

I would like, however, to submit that a facility with numbers, an easy familiarity with some simple arithmetical tools, can be a great aid to perfumers in their day to day work, not at all restricting artistry or imagination, but rather helping them to achieve final results that are the best obtainable, and proven to be so.

For many perfumers today, much of the fascination of the work is that it not only requires all the artistry that can be summoned up, but that at the same time, free-flowing creativity must be tempered, sometimes strictly, with a fiercely commercial attitude. Most perfumers are engaged in designing fragrances that they hope to sell in the world’s markets, and these are now ruthlessly competitive places. For this reason, perfumers must ensure that each creation not only has the best odor and/or other technical attributes they are capable of giving it, but it must also be presented at the correct cost. This is where a little simple arithmetic can be ex. tremely helpful.

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