John Gorrie

physician, inventor of refrigeration and air-conditioning
Born: Oct. 3, 1802
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina or Nevis, West Indies

John Gorrie attended medical school in New York, graduating in 1833. His specialty was tropical medicine. He set up practice in Apalachicola, Fla. After an outbreak of yellow fever in the area, he observed that “nature would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons.” This led him to develop his theory that cooling the air would aid in the recovery of his patients. He began cooling sickrooms by suspending ice in tubs from the ceilings. After 1845, he gave up medicine to devote his time to inventing a way of artificially cooling the air. Gorrie invented a machine that produced ice, and on May 6, 1851, he was granted Patent No. 8080, the first patent for mechanical refrigeration. The original model is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution. He died before his invention could be developed on a large scale. Today he is considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning.

Died: June 29, 1855