Xanthan gum was discovered by Allene Rosalind Jeanes, an influential (WWII-era) U.S. government chemist. It's a polysaccharide that forms as a by-product of bacterial fermentation of sugars. It's not nearly as "chemical-y" as it sounds, however, and can be found in non-GMO form at natural foods markets. While it has become a star in the molecular gastronomy movement and is a key ingredient in gluten-free baked goods, there's little modern about it at all. It's been in our food chain since the late sixties and is found in everything from ice cream to bottled salad dressings--we'll use it in dressings, too. Break out your bell-bottoms.