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The History of Air Conditioning



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In today's society we take advantages of many luxuries and often forget about them until they stop working. Air conditioning is one of these luxuries that people most people have grown accustomed to. Why shouldn't they? Our ancestors would have jumped at the chance to not only regulate the temperature of the air, but also the humidity, motion and any particles in the air as well. Thanks to the invention of air conditioning we can relax in our own controlled environments and defy the elements.

In the early 1830's the first attempt at air conditioning was made by Dr. John Gorrie in Florida. Dr. Gorrie had many patients suffering from malaria. As if the hot and humid conditions in Florida were not enough, the malaria patients also endured intense fevers. Dr. Gorrie attempted to create a means to cool them off by building a machine that blew an air current over ice. A similar apparatus was creating while President Garfield was dying. Naval engineers came up with a structure that used cloths saturated with melted ice water with a fan overhead blowing directly on the cloths. While this machine was able to lower the temperature of the room about 20 degrees; it was very inefficient using nearly half a million pounds of ice in two months.

It wasn't until 1902 when William Carrier created a machine that was eventually developed into the air conditioning units we use today. Carrier worked for Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, New York and created this device in attempt to control the humidity in the room to create a superior product. Little did Carrier know that his machine would work so well that his machine would be used for more than industrial purposes. In fact only ten years later, a wealthy Jon Gates was the first to purchase an air conditioner for his home. At this point, the air conditioner unit was very large, very expensive, and quite dangerous. The source of the danger was the ammonia which was the coolant used at the time. Therefore, any leak in the unit could be fatal.

Carrier improved his idea in 1922 with several dramatic breakthroughs. Dielene, a safe coolant, replaced the toxic ammonia making AC's safer, thus, more marketable. Carrier was also able to decrease the size of each unit by adding a central compressor enabling him to develop units for railroad cars, government buildings such as the White House, and the Capital Building. Department stores and movie theaters purchased air conditioners, and watched as enthusiastic customers flocked to their establishments to enjoy the conditioned air. Eventually, window units were available and immediately became in high demand.

Although Carrier was not the first to develop a machine that altered the temperature of a room, he is the pioneer of modern air conditioning, or as some may put it "the king of cool." Because of Carriers knack for "coolness" we can now live and work in hundred degree weather without breaking a sweat. Most regard the AC as a necessity, rather than an actual luxury. It is difficult to imagine life without regulated humidity and temperatures, and because of Mr. Carrier we don't have to; we can simply relax in our conditioned "coolness."



Sources:
http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa081797.htm
http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/mvigeant/therm_1/AC_final/bg.htm

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