Which American Invention Was Born On This Day in 1902?

blog_2012_0717_thermostatIf you’re like us, you ordered a cake from your local bakery weeks ago. This is one of those dates we should celebrate each year. If you forgot to circle it in red on your calendar or you’re just looking for an excuse to celebrate, this is it. Today is the birthday of air conditioning! Thanks to Willis Carrier, we’ve been more comfortable at home & freezing in movie theaters since 1902!

There were many cooling methods dating back millennia before Willis Haviland Carrier invented modern electrical air conditioning. For example, Islamic houses were often focused on an interior courtyard called a riad (the Arabic term for “garden”). A fountain or water feature in a central courtyard cooled the air to create a natural convention through the  house.

In 1902, Carrier was working on controlling the temperature and humidity in a printing plant – the lower humidity controlled the paper and helped the ink dry faster. Stuart Cramer of Charlotte, North Carolina was working on a similar challenge in his textile mill and eventually coined the term “air conditioning”, which Carrier adopted.

The first air conditioned private house in the United States was built for Mr. & Mrs. David St. Pierre Dubose in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s a beautiful house now used by the UNC as a central part of the Rizzo Conference Center.

Did you know air conditioning also shaped the movie industry? Before air conditioning, no one wanted to sit in a crowded, hot building during the summer months. Carrier persuaded the Paramount Pictures Corporation to install air conditioning in the Rivoli Theatre in Times Square and the rest is history – Carrier installed air conditioning in over 300 theaters across the country after his success in Times Square.

Air conditioning also transformed the way our federal government functions. Our elected officials left Washington, D.C. in the heat and humidity of the summer. Some would argue it’s best not to have our government in session all year but you can’t argue that air conditioning has had a huge effect on how we function.

Carrier offers an interactive history of air conditioning on its website. The company is still a leader in the technology and was one of the first companies to introduce home air conditioning systems that control temperature and humidity separately. That’s a significant advancement because humidity is such a critical part of conditioning our indoor environments.

Modern air conditioning started with humidity control and we’re still addressing it today. Thanks to Willis Carrier and all the people who have advanced the technology of air conditioning!

Photo by Joelk75 used under a creative commons license.

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