The Founding Fathers of Modern Air Conditioning
There's nothing better than air conditioning on a hot, humid day. It's hard to imagine a time when most people living in warm climates didn't have an air conditioning system installed in their homes. People have been coming up with ways to cool down their homes since the beginning. Most of those cooling solutions involved water evaporation and air movement (which is still employed when using an evaporative cooler. The roots of modern air conditioning lie at the tree of refrigeration.
Modern Air Conditioning Founding Father #1: William Cullen
William Cullen was a Scottish physician, chemist and agriculturalist, whose chemical experiments mark the beginning of modern mechanical refrigeration. In 1756, he publically demonstrated artificial refrigeration for the first time in Edinburgh. He used a pump which created a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether. The diethyl ether boiled and absorbed heat from the surroundings, which created a small amount of ice. Unfortunately, this process found no commercial application. It would still be a while before modern air conditioning would see the light of day.
Modern Air Conditioning Founding Father #2: Benjamin Franklin
Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, but he was also one of the Founding Fathers of the Concept of Cooling. He noticed that on a very hot day, he stayed cooler when wearing a wet shirt in a breeze than he did in a dry one. Franklin and John Hadley, a fellow scientist, conducted experiments in 1758 that further explored cooling by evaporation, bringing the world a couple of steps closer to modern air conditioning.
Modern Air Conditioning Founding Father #3: Jacob Perkins
An American living in Great Britain, Jacob Perkins, was actually the first person to obtain a patent for a vapor-compression refrigeration system in 1834. Perhaps, a forgotten name when it comes to the invention of modern air conditioning , he built a prototype system that actually worked, but never became a commercial success.
Modern Air Conditioning Founding Father #4: John Gorrie
An American physician by the name of John Gorrie, designed the first system for refrigerating water to produce ice in 1842. He also wanted to use his refrigeration system to cool air for comfort in homes and hospitals. His medical research involved the study of tropical diseases and he believed that bad air was responsible for causing the diseases. John Gorrie gave up his medical practice in 1845 and sought to raise money to manufacture his ice machine. Instead, he ended up dying impoverished in 1855 and any notion of modern air conditioning disappeared for 50 years.
Modern Air Conditioning Founding Father #5: Willis Carrier
After the Second Industrial Revolution came Willis Carrier, the father of modern air conditioning. He invented the first large-scale electrical air conditioning system in 1902. This system employed an imported centrifugal compressor. As well as inventing and installing the first true mechanical air conditioning system, he studied the properties of chilled air and developed the modern psychometric chart, whereby the comfort properties of conditioned air can be defined and controlled.
One Last Note
Concluding the important innovations that led to modern air conditioning is the invention of non-flammable, non-toxic refrigerants in the late 1920s. Without these refrigerants, air conditioners and domestic refrigerators wouldn't be considered safe.
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