The Refrigerator

May 6th Celebrates - The Refrigerator

Can you imagine how your life would be without a refrigerator?

Maybe for a few days, if you went camping and stored everything inside a cooler, which was what being without a refrigerator was like before they were invented.

In the old days when food could not be preserved people used to smoke it or bury it deep in the ground. Ground temperatures are cooler than above ground. Of course sometimes animals dug up what people were trying to keep, so that led to other methods. If people lived near streams some would try and preserve foods using water.

People started building cellars or well houses. Well houses were deeper than cellars and often cooler. Wines are still kept them in some areas. People later used them to store ice and would place food in the new ice cellars.

Just before the refrigerators, people used insulated ice boxes. The “ice man” travelled from the ice house with blocks of ice either in a large truck or in a horse drawn wagon. He grabbed the blocks of ice with huge sharp tongs and swung it into the ice box. When the family wanted ice, they had to chip what they needed with a super sharp pick, called appropriately an ice pick. They also dried pickled, canned, smoked and salted meat and vegetables to preserve them.

Sounds like a lot work doesn’t it?

The reason why today’s story is on the refrigerator is because a man by the name of Doctor John Gorrie patented the refrigerator on May 6th 1851.

Who was Doctor John Gorrie?

Before Doctor John Gorrie came up with the idea another fellow by the name of William Cullen from the University of Glasgow demonstrated in 1748 in his laboratory an artificial refrigeration by letting ethyl ether boil into vacuum. However liquid ether was highly explosive, which is why something else had to be invented to keep food cool.

Oliver Evans in the United States designed but never attempted to build, a refrigeration machine that used vapor instead of liquid. Using Evans’ refrigeration concept, Jacob Perkins of the U.S. and England, developed an experimental volatile liquid, closed-cycle compressor in 1834, but that didn’t pan out to anything either.

Commercial refrigeration is believed to have been initiated by an American businessman, Alexander C. Twinning using sulphuric ether in 1856. Shortly afterward, an Australian, James Harrison, examined the refrigerators used by Gorrie and Twinning, and introduced vapor (ether) compression refrigeration to the brewing and meat packing industries.

Dr. Gorrie’s basic principle is the one most often used in refrigeration today; namely, cooling caused by the rapid expansion of gases. Using two double acting force pumps he first condensed and then rarified air. His apparatus, initially designed to treat yellow fever patients, reduced the temperature of compressed air by interjecting a small amount of water into it.

The compressed air was submerged in coils surrounded by a circulating bath of cooling water. He then allowed the interjected water to condense out in a holding tank, and released or rarified, the compressed air into a tank of lower pressure containing brine; This lowered the temperature of the brine to 26 degrees F. or below, and immersing drip-fed, brick-sized, oil coated metal containers of non-saline water, or rain water, into the brine, manufactured ice bricks. The cold air was released in an open system into the atmosphere.

The state of Florida would not be what it is today without air conditioning. Doctor John Gorrie is considered the father of air conditioning and refrigeration. He was also a physician, scientist, inventor, and humanitarian.

Doctor Gorrie studied tropical diseases. This influenced him to move to Apalachicola, Florida, a large cotton market on the Gulf coast. During his residence, Gorrie served as mayor, postmaster, city treasurer, council member, bank director, and founder of Trinity Church.

The most interesting thoughts I had about Doctor Gorrie was that he wasn’t born as an American. He was born on the Island of Nevis in the West Indies to his Scottish parents on October 3, 1803. He spent most of his childhood in South Carolina, and received his medical education in New York.

After 1845, he gave up his medical practice to pursue refrigeration projects. On May 6, 1851, Gorrie was granted Patent No. 8080 for a machine to make ice.

The original model of this machine and the scientific articles he wrote are at the Smithsonian Institution. Impoverished, Gorrie sought to raise money to manufacture his machine, but the venture failed when his partner died. Humiliated by criticism, financially ruined, and his health broken, Gorrie died in seclusion on June 29, 1855. He is buried in Gorrie Square in Apalachicola.

Every entrepreneur has pits falls, but all is not forgotten. Today’s YouTube video below is brought to you by user name Hal Dunn, which explains to you how Doctor John Gorrie is still remembered here today.

The state of Florida honored Gorrie as a notable person in Florida’s history by donating the statue of John Gorrie to the National Statuary Hall collection located in the United States Capitol Building, and naming a Florida state park and museum in his honor.

In lieu of Doctor Gorrie’s invention, and his personal struggles he had to endure to make our life more convenient.

I encourage you, not to give up on your dreams, because you never know how really close you are, in making your dreams come true!

Written and Designed by JD Mitchell

J.D Mitchell Design Studio


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