The concept of air conditioning was around long before the actual air conditioning system. The first person to attempt building an air conditioning system was Dr. John Gorrie, a physicist from Apalachicola, Florida. In the 1830’s, Dr. Gorrie created a machine that essentially blew air over a bucket of ice and was used to cool the hospital rooms of patients with yellow fever and malaria.
In 1881, another air conditioning device was created by naval engineers who constructed a box containing cloths soaked in melted ice water, and there was a fan that blew overhead. The invention was able to lower the temperature of a room by about twenty degrees but it was not practical as it consumed about a half million pounds of ice in only two months time.
The first air conditioner similar to the models we use today wasn’t constructed until 1902 and it was made by an American engineer names Willis Carrier. Carrier named his invention “The apparatus for treating air” and it was originally built for a lithographing and publishing company in New York City. The device used chilled coils to cool the air and was able to lower the humidity of a room by up to fifty five percent.
After Carrier’s invention of the first real air conditioner, the industry began to boom as air conditioning systems were introduced to various industrial buildings, and a limited number of hospitals. The first home air conditioner belonged to Charles Gates, the son of gambler John Gates, and was purchased in 1914. The first air conditioners were not easily available as they were large, expensive, and even dangerous because ammonia was used as a coolant.
In 1922, Carrier improved on his original air conditioner design. He replaced the ammonia used as a coolant with dielene which was a safe alternative. Carrier also added a central compressor to the air conditioner to greatly reduce the size of the unit. He then sold his invention to movie theaters and shortly thereafter air conditioners were being installed in office buildings, railroad cars, and department stores. Home air conditioners also became popular after World War 2.
Even today air conditioners are becoming smaller and more efficient and their designs are always being improved upon. The invention of air conditioning is one that is hard to imagine living without.
Some further information on the history of air conditioning systems
Air Conditioning History – a brief history of the air conditioning system and its inventors
Willis Carrier – an article on the inventor of the modern style air conditioner
Air Conditioning Timeline – a timeline of the inventions and improvements to the air conditioning system