Today’s high was 91. It is very hot, but thank goodness for air conditioning. Oh wait!–I don’t have air conditioning in my car. 🙁 I have had the recent misfortune of not having the luxury of cool air circulating in my automobile. As I drive to work in the uncomfortable heat, I cannot help but think about civilization before A/C. I would imagine people were hot, sweaty, and dirty all of the time.
The first documented testing for the theory of air conditioning was in 1758, by Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley. Their theory was that one could use the principles of evaporation to quickly cool down an object. Franklin and Hadley used bellows directed at a mercury thermometer to “quicken” the evaporation of highly volatile liquid. By the completion of the experiment, these two had accomplished their objective of lowering the temperature of the thermometer to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, while the ambient temperature was 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Benjamin Franklin concluded that, “From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day.”
Really Benji?–the only conclusion is that we “may see the possibility of freezing a man to death”?!??
Though there were many advances in the theory of using evaporation for cooling purposes, we will jump straight to the actual idea of the air conditioner. In 1842, John Gorrie used compressor technology to make ice, which he used to cool air for patients in hospitals. His main plan was to use this technology, in conjunction with centralized air ducts, to cool off an entire building. John Gorrie had grandiose visions of also using his system to cool off entire cities, but sadly was unable to make much headway with his invention due to his poor health and lack of a financial backer. Unfortunately, following Gorrie’s death, the idea for the air conditioner died away too. In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the modern, electric air conditioner. The great thing about his invention is that not only did it control temperature but also controlled humidity. Now this technology was originally invented to increase productivity in the workplace, but of course it quickly made its way into everyone’s homes and cars.
In 1906, Stuart Cramer was exploring ways to add moisture into his textile mills, piggybacking off of Carrier’s invention, when he coined the term “air conditioning”. Carrier used this term and included it in his product names, growing his invention and company into the air conditioning dynasty that it is today. Early air conditioners used very dangerous chemicals, but switched to Freon in 1928. Freon was in continued use until recently when scientist found that it was bad for the environment. Just in the last two years all refrigeration products switched to the new Puron chemicals, which are safer for the environment.
As it gets hotter and hotter, you better believe that history will not be the only thing I am hankering for. I will be hankering for air conditioning….