Many of us have heard the story of how the air conditioner was invented by Willis Carrier. But what if there was a whole deeper story underneath that, just waiting to be told?
We’ve got the scoop on the untold story of John Gorrie and what really happened!
First, a quick review of the story you might have heard before:
In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioner. He was working at a printing company in New York City, and he was trying to find a way to control the humidity in the air. He created a machine that could cool the air and help keep the paper from curling. The printing company loved it, and his invention changed the world forever, making it possible for people to live and work in comfort in hot, humid climates. Today, air conditioning is a vital part of our lives, and we owe it all to Willis Carrier!
That’s great (and 100% true!) but we’ve realized that far fewer people have heard of John Gorrie. He was born back in 1803, so his life predates Willis Carrier by quite a bit.
John Gorrie was a young man living in Florida at the height of the pandemic that was going on back then: yellow fever. One thing he noticed was that the hot, humid conditions in Florida were making people’s fevers worse. The solution? Move them up here to Raleigh where it’s at least a little bit better!! Just kidding. The solution was of course to cool and dry the air and make it less hospitable to the virus.
But unfortunately, when Gorrie told other Florida physicians about his machine that would cool the air by blowing cold air over ice – hanging that from the ceiling, and letting that cooled, heavier airdrop to the patient’s bed – he was laughed at! And his ideas were more complex than just that; he was able to mechanically make ice by the year 1844 so that the step of transporting ice from frozen lakes could be avoided altogether! In fact, Gorrie and fellow American Jacob Perkins could both lay claim to the title of the inventor of the icemaker/refrigerator.
Gorrie died in 1855, and while he did live to see his machine used in warehouses and hospitals, and not just getting laughed at, he never saw the realization of his ideas. A few decades after Gorrie died, President James Garfield used Gorrie’s machine while sick with malaria and fever.
While it’s true that today’s air conditioners don’t require ice to work at all, and instead, we have refrigerant to complete the vapor-compression cycle and give us all the cooling we need, it’s still “cool” to think about the forefathers of A/C. Especially when so little is known about them, and they aren’t given the credit they are due!
So, the next time you’re thinking about the nice, cool air, consider not only the great Willis Carrier but John Gorrie too! And the next time you need A/C repair, consult the modern-day experts: the technicians at Weather Master! Give Weather Master a call anytime at (919) 853-7910, and we’ll be happy to help you in your Raleigh home.