As we deal with another day of sweltering heat in the Midwest, let’s all acknowledge the huge debt we owe to Willis Carrier — the guy who invented air conditioning. Where would we be without Willis and his life-changing invention?
Interestingly, Willis Carrier did not invent air conditioning to increase human comfort on scorching summer days. Instead, he came up with his invention, in 1902, to try to deal with the problems heat and humidity were causing for a Brooklyn printing business. It was so hot and humid during the summer months in the printing plant that the ink would not adhere to the paper, so Willis came up with the idea of moving air over cooled coils to lower the temperature and the humidity so the printers could function. The decreased temperature in the no-doubt sweltering area near the printing presses was just a pleasant by-product of the invention.
Willis’ invention caught on and air conditioning was implemented in many businesses, but it would be decades before air conditioning became common in American homes. The first two houses I remember living in didn’t have central air conditioning. But now, 117 years after Willis Carrier was touched by a stroke of genius, central air conditioning is commonplace, and it’s really hard to imagine life without it.
Thank you, Willis Carrier!