This summer has been a very hot one from the start. We set the all-time record high for Eugene on June 27th with a scorching 111 degrees beating the old record by 3 degrees. Our temperatures have wavered from the 90s down to the low 80s and back again and now we’re back to the 90s. We still have plenty of hot weather ahead since summer is by no means over. If, like me, you don’t have an air conditioned home it’s nice to go out to a movie, a shopping mall, or some other public building that does have it, since the COVID-19 restrictions have been eased. It’s times like this that my mind wanders into the “I wonder” mode. I wonder how the idea of air conditioning came about? Apparently man has been trying to find a way to cool off from the very beginning.
The first recorded invention occurred in about 200 AD as Ding Huan, a Han Dynasty inventor, devised a human powered 7 wheel fan that was about 10 feet in diameter. In 700 AD a water-powered fan including fountains was built by Emperor Xuanzong for his imperial palace. Benjamin Franklin and a chemistry professor at Cambridge University discovered that alcohol and ether, among other volatile liquids, could be evaporated to cool the air measured with a thermometer from 64 degrees F to 7 degrees F. In 1820 famed British inventor Michael Faraday evaporated ammonia to cool air.
American Dr. John Gorrie created ice with a compressor to cool the air at his Apalachicola, Florida hospital. He patented his invention in 1851 but lost his financial backing to continue production.
According to many sources the air conditioner was first developed 112 years ago by Willis Carrier, but that is not entirely correct. Back in 1895 a man by the name of Stuart W. Cramer, after working two years for a leading textile mill engineer Daniel A. Tompkins, started his own business as an engineer and contractor specializing in designing and making equipment for cotton mills. Among Cramer’s inventions were humidifiers and other devices that improve the spinning efficiency for cotton spinning plants. It was Cramer who coined the term “air conditioning.” His air conditioners made the spinning process work more smoothly and at the same time made the working environment more comfortable for the workers. He sold his air conditioning business and got out of that business altogether.
Now we get back to Willis Carrier whose company name lives on today as a leader in producing and installing air conditioners throughout the world. According to the New York Times it was very hot on July 17,1902 in New York City and 7 people died due to heat-related causes the week before. July 17 was the date stamped on the blueprints for an air conditioning system to be installed on the second floor of a Brooklyn printing plant.
Carrier devised a system of fans, ducts, heaters and perforated pipes. He found that he could control the air temperature by forcing air over pipes filled with cool well water that he later refrigerated. The reason air conditioning was needed was that in humid weather the ink would not dry properly and therefore the layers of colors on the paper would not line up properly. This had a significant effect on the business world because work could be done where in the past the humidity would make the manufacturing very difficult and the workers struggling to work in the humid and hot environment. Carrier published “Rational Psychrometric Formulae,” which was nicknamed the “Magna Carta of air-conditioning.” His inventions over the next 50 years earned him the nickname ” The Father of Air Conditioning.”
A company in New York City was the first one to install air conditioning for cars in 1933. In 1939 the Packard Motor Car Company was the first to offer an air conditioning unit in its cars. Due to many problems with the system they discontinued installing them in cars in 1941. The Nash Ambassador was the first American car to have a front end fully integrated heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system that was a success. The car makers are still working to make air-conditioning systems that are more efficient and take less of the car’s fuel to operate.
Here we are today taking air conditioning for granted, that is until it breaks down and we start sweating. Here’s hoping you can keep cool.
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