It is often said that “Necessity is the mother of invention” which proved true for American engineer, Willis Carrier, the “Father of Air Conditioning” who ultimately launched an industry with his design of the original air-conditioning system in an effort to solve an air quality problem at the Sackett & Whilhelm’s Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York on the 17th of July 1902.
The installation of the first air conditioner with humidity control marked the birth of modern air conditioning which today, must be able to perform four basic functions – cleanse the air, control air circulation and ventilation, control temperature and control humidity.
Born on the 26th of November 1876 on a farm in Angola, New York, to Duane Williams Carrier and Elizabeth Haviland, Willis Haviland Carrier experienced some difficulty in grasping the concept of fractions as a young man. To assist him in overcoming this weakness, his mother gave him a visual lesson by having him cut whole apples into halves, quarters and eights and then add and subtract the parts.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1901 with a BSE degree and going on to solve one of mankind’s most elusive challenges, that of indoor environment control, Willis reportedly later said that it was his mother’s maths lesson that taught him that no problem is too difficult to solve if first broken down to something simple.
Building Block For Industry
In January 1906, following several years of refinement, Carrier’s patented “Apparatus for Treating Air” was recognised as the world’s first spray-type air conditioning equipment able to humidify or dehumidify air, which remains the fundamental building block for modern-day air conditioning, and which subsequently gave rise to numerous industries that power economy today.
From the outset, Willis Carrier recognised that climate, comfort and production requirements would determine the ultimate value of air conditioning and he thus began to develop a network of international dealers, distributors and customers. His early installations in Europe and Asia served as a yardstick for the universal applications of air conditioning.
In December 1911, Carrier presented what is perhaps the most significant document ever prepared on air conditioning. Carrier’s “Rational Psychometric Formulae” has both served and evolved as an essential tool for generations of engineers, tying together the concepts of relative humidity, absolute humidity and dew-point temperature. With its scientific basis, the document continues to make it possible for engineers to design air-conditioning systems to precisely fit any requirements at hand.
The 1913 development of the “Carrier Air Humidifier” was the first self-contained unit with a fan and motor, eliminator and sprays all combined into a single packaged product. These units were designed to humidify the air in one room, such as an office or laboratory.
The air conditioners ability to precisely control temperature and humidity, best known for its comfort benefits, has a heritage born out of advancing commerce and has enabled tremendous growth in manufacturing, technology and industry, having first migrated from factories to department stores, movie theatres, other public spaces, homes and far beyond what anyone could have ever imagined, changing the world forever. It even contributed exponentially to a population boom in the hotter states of America.
The Legacy Of Willis Carrier
Carrier Engineering Corp, the company founded by Willis Carrier in July 1915, which later changed its name to Carrier Corp in 1937, continually strived to reinvent the industry of energy-efficient products and manufacturing practices and still shapes the way we live, work and play today.
Long after his death on October 1950, just shy of his 74th birthday, Willis Carrier’s legacy lives on, with Carrier Corp still being the world leader in commercial and residential HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and refrigeration systems.
To honour his remarkable contribution of advancing productivity and bringing comfort to the world, Willis Carrier was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985 and later named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” in 1998.
So, when the weather outside is frightful but your indoor environment is quite delightful, spare a little thought of gratitude to the brilliant man who made it all possible.