A product in modern society that is often appreciated but rarely put in the limelight (unless it broken) is air conditioning, which has the ability to beat Mother Nature if in an indoor and controlled environment by making surroundings cooler (or in some cases, warmer). But who was it that first came up with this revolutionary concept of not having to live by the weather forecast?
Despite a history of cooling systems such as the fan being in place since Ancient Chinese times, and a 18th/19th century period of experimentation with speeding up the process of evaporation, the first major breakthrough in the field of air conditioning a we know it did not arrive until 1902. This was when recent Engineering Masters graduate (from Cornell University (USA)), Willis Haviland Carrier, developed an ‘air’ (temperature and humidity) conditioning system for his bosses at a printing plant in Brooklyn, who had seen their paper and machines (which was affected by outside heat and humidity) print uneven and misalignged ink patterns.
The new system allowed for more reliable prints, and Carrier would patent his ‘Apparatus for Treating Air’ (US Pat# 808897) (granted in 1906), and would be the first of many awarded to him (although the term ‘air conditioning’ came from textile plant worker Stuart H. Cramer, who added water vapour to the formula for controlled air). It was Carrier, though, whose work in the field would give him the nickname ‘The Father of Cool’.
In 1911, Willis Haviland Carrier (who claimed that he had once worked out the relative formula for ‘temperature and humidity control’ whilst waiting for a train) had released his ‘Rational Psychrometric Formulae’ to the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), allowing for a public and standardised method used in the air conditioning industry even today, which involves the transformation of hot air to water vapour, and the cooling of this vapour to create cooler air coming back out of the system. A video clip demonstrating this method can be seen below:
Industries then pounced on the chance to have such a system in place for their respective production lines, with film, foods (‘refrigeration machine’ (invented in 1921)) tobacco, textiles, and medical supplies, were all amongst products that saw significant quality improvement when produced in a controlled-air environment. This lead to Willis and six partner engineers forming the Carrier Engineering Corporation (in 1915) to develop air-conditioning technology and sell corresponding products. The company has been in a high rate of turnover ever since.
The technology would then move for human-populated environments, rather than just machines, and after rave reviews of the system being placed in a department store in Detroit, human cooling would develop into home use, and since 1928, houses have been able to control their own temperatures, with only world-wide economic problems halting the progress of this now-universal product.
Willis Haviland Carrier would unfortunately pass away in 1950, but the legacy of the ‘Father of Cool’ will live on in a ‘chilling’ manner, albeit positively…