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Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacologist, invented the Scoville scale in 1912 to measure the pungency of peppers and chillies, generally related to their capsaicin content. To establish a chilli pepper’s rating, Scoville would prepare it in a solution, which was then tested by five people. He increased its dilution until the sensation of heat disappeared. The score on the scale represents the level of dilution required for the sensation of heat to disappear completely.
SCOVILLE, W.L. 1912. Note on capsicums. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 1(5), 453-454.