Popeye Ate Spinach Because of a Misplaced Decimal Point

By | September 19, 2019

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Spinach made Popeye strong...but was it all a mistake? Source: (teleradio.com.ec)

Who didn't love the Popeye comics? One of the best-remembered traits about the lovable Popeye, who debuted in 1929, is his love of spinach. The green leafy vegetable, in fact, gave Popeye a boost of strength whenever he ate it, usually in times of trouble. But why does spinach make Popeye strong? The creator of the comic strip, Elzie Crisler Segar, gave Popeye the ability to power up by eating a can of spinach because it was widely known that spinach was a superfood that was packed with iron. Well, it turned out that spinach had an inflated reputation. Let's look at how a basic math error led to spinach becoming Popeye's go-to source for super strength. 

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Oops...scientist Erich von Wolf put the decimal in the wrong place. Source: (historyofecology.blogspot.com)

Math is Hard

A German chemist and researcher named Erich von Wolf was working on a project in 1870 to determine the iron content of various green vegetables. He kept careful notes of his findings, but when he went back later to write up his results, he did something that all of us have done at one time or another: He put the decimal point in the wrong spot. The note about the iron content of a serving of spinach should have read "3.5 milligrams," but it became "35 milligrams." Oops.