John Gorrie


1803-1855

The Doctor who invented air conditioning and refrigeration

Had the early settlers felt that they needed refrigeration, some inventors would most likely have tinkered with the idea and come up
with the solution. It was the growth of cities in the 19th century, along with the increase in hotels, hospitals and restaurants, that finally
led to the use of iceboxes that use natural ice. Electric refrigeration was unknown before the 20th century. The Farms of early days were
built in a way to take care of food and prevent it from spoiling. Split stone was used for the foundations of houses, and all houses had
cellars. If anyone had asked the question, "why do you need a cellar?" he would have been thought simple-minded. the early settlers
built near a spring wherever possible, and added a spring-house to keep dairy products cool in summer. A short distance from the house
of that period, usually in the side of a hill, a root-cellar was built. Within the farmhouse itself were pantries and "butteries" where food
was kept in winter.


Those old cellars were wonderful places. Here were kept barrels of salt brine in which pork and beef were preserved. Smoked hams
hung from the ceilings of either the cellar or the smoked-house. Glass jars of summer vegetables fined the shelves of the cellar. it was
a mark of shiftlessness not to have enough food on hand to last from season to season. The root-cellar held turnips, dried beans and
potatoes in sacks, apples and pumpkins. Dried and salt codfish and smoded herring were also on hand. It was after the revolutionary
war that men began to cut natural ice in blocks and store it in iceboxes. the ice was covered with sawdust and an straw to keep it for
summer use. In 1799 a shipment of ice, cut from a pond in New York City, was taken to Charleston, South Carolina. that was the
beginning of the ice business. No one had ever thought of selling ice before. Load of ice were soon going to England from Massachusetts.


Traders in the West indies found a steady demand for ice. At the beginning of 19th century the first big commercial icehouses were built in
the United States. The English built the first iceboxes. They were quite fancy pieces of furniture, built for use in the dining room. Often the
icebox was a combination of china cabinet and icebox. During the civil war blockade runners often took daring chaces in order to deliver
ice to New Orleans, where it was sometimes sold at a dollar a pound. In time, the demand became so great that not enough ice could be
found to supply it. A poor harvest of ice, during the warm winter, would make the supply short. Then, men began to seek ways of
manufacturing ice. This invention, however, did not come from industry, but was the result of a doctor's experiments.


Very few Americans doctors are listed as inventors. This is understandable, since doctors were scarce before 1820. American colleges did
not offer medical courses until after the revolutionary war. Massachusetts General Hospital was opened in 1918 and it was there that the
use of ether in surgery occurred in 1846, when Dr. William Morton brought it to the attention of the world. He did not know that ether
had been used in an operation four years before by surgeon in a little town in Georgia. It was John Gorrie, a physician in the neighboring
state of Florida, who used air-conditioning to cool hospital rooms, and found that ether could be used to manufacture artificial ice.


John Gorrie was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Early in the 19th century he studied medicine at the College of Phisitians
and surgeons in New York City. He went into practice in the town of Apalachicola, Florida, a busy frontier town that had a marine
hospital. Many of the patients were brought in suffering from malaria and fever. At that time little was known about the treatment of fever.
It was much later that science discovered that some fevers were caused by a mosquito. Dr. Gorrie observed, however, that during cool weather
his patients showed improvement. He concluded that cool rooms were necessary in their treatment.


Dr. Gorrie set to work designing a device that would cool the air within a closed room. A pipe was led to a chimney which brought in
fresh air. In the center of the ceiling he susspended an ice-filled basin over which air would pass. Another pipe at ground level drew the
used air from the room, so that the constant circulation kept the room cool. But the demand for natural ice and its scarcity made it very
expensive. So Dr. Gorrie began working on a plan for making artificial ice by the use of ether as a refrigerant. Dr. Gorrie was a brilliant
physician and scientist. He knew about the process of compression and expansion which a refrigerant would undergo to produce ice.
Success, however, did not come instantly. Several of his attempts to make artifical ice failed until, one day, rushing out to treat an injured
man, he accidentally left his machine running. When he returned he expected to find it ruined. To his surprise, he found that ice had formed.


Before the Civil war, Apalachicola was the center of the cotton belt of Florida. Much of the life of woment on the plantations included
working for the church, and in this cause ice-cream "sociables" were held to raise money. The success of sociable depended on having
enough ice with which to make ice-cream in the hand freezers that were used. The day the doctor discovered his machine had made ice,
looked as if it might turn out disastrously for the church ladies. A sociable had been advertised for the next night and the ice schooner had
not arrived. When the doctor assured the ladies that they would have ice, they attributed it to his optimism about the ice schooner arriving
in time.


The next morning the doctor went to the place where the ice-cream was to be made. Anxious ladies stood around eyeing the empty freezer.
The doctor was wrong, they thought; the ece schooner was nowhere in sight. Now, they wondered, what in the world was the doctor's servant
carriyng?. Before their astonished gaze the servant began pilling sardine cans on the tables. And they saw that the cans held little blocks of
ice. True, there was no way of removing the blocks of ice except by running water over the cans, but the day was saved. The ladies, shaking
their heads, agreed that the doctor was a magician. So this was what had been going on in the doctor's shack late at night, he had been
concocting ice, just imagine that.


The doctor was convinced that inexpensive ice would open the way to better health and living. He could not, however, convince his friends,
some of whom were wealthy, that they ought to back him to promote his idea. His fried thought that his experiment was an accident. it
might have happened once, they felt, but no one could imagine making ice in quantities. Dr. Gorrie became an object of scorn in the northern
newpapers. In an area where the natural ice business was flourishing, one editor said that a crank in Apalachicola claimed he could make
ice, that was as good as that made by Almighty God. Dr. Gorrie had to go back to treating the sick and making his hospital rooms
air-conditioned by means of his simple arrangement. He joined the ranks of disappointed inventors who died convinced that their effort
had come to very little, and that they were failures.


Though Dr. Gorrie's name is little known in the history of invention, he was one of the fewers from whose work others reaped. He is
recognized today as the inventor of artificial ice and his statue stand in the Hall of statuary at the Capitol in Washington.

There is not doubt that this man contribute to the molding of the great North America.

The men who molded North America


Julio Duran

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