Before scientists and inventors began experimenting to find artificial means to cooling the air, humans relied heavily on the natural process of sweating and some form of fanning themselves to keep cool during scorching Summer months. In ancient Egypt, the Egyptians would hang wet reeds in the windows of their homes and other buildings to use the water’s evaporation to cool their spaces. Similarly, in ancient Rome, Romans diverted water from their cities aqueducts through the walls of buildings to create a cooling effect. In the 3rd century, Emperor Elagabalus used more than 1,000 slaves to import snow, building his own mountain of snow in the garden next to his home to keep him cool during the summer.

Inventors and scientists began to get involved in the concept of artificial cooling when Chinese inventor Ding Huan invented the first manually powered rotary fan during the 2nd century. It wasn’t then until the 17th century when Englishman Cornelius Drebbel discovered that adding salt to water cooled the air when the water evaporated. Both John Hadley, a Cambridge University Chemistry professor, and Benjamin Franklin, acclaimed American inventor, continued to experiment with the use of evaporation of other liquids to cool and freeze different objects around 1758.

Using Climate Cooling To Prevent Disease And Make Patients Comfortable

The concept of the necessity of cooling cities began right here in Florida when physician and inventor, Dr. John Gorrie, believing that cooling cities was essential to relieving local residents of “the evils of high temperatures”, began experimenting with the concept of artificial cooling in the 1840s. Dr. Gorrie believed that properly controlling climate temperature was the key to preventing diseases like malaria, and making sick patients more comfortable, thereby making it easier for their bodies to heal. Dr. Gorrie’s first system of cooling required ice to be shipped to Florida from frozen lakes throughout the north. This clearly caused an expensive logistical challenge to making proper cooling readily accessible, so Dr. Gorrie set out to create a system to cool the air in hospital rooms using an engine powered by a horse, water, and wind-driven sails or steam to pull in air, compress it, and then running cooler air back out through pipes. When the pipes on his machine unexpectedly froze and began to develop ice, Dr. Gorrie realized there could be another use for his machine and received a patent in 1851 for his unique technology in the first ice machine. However, Dr. Gorrie was not ever able to successfully bring his ice machine to the marketplace.

In the summer of 1881 when U.S. President James Garfield was shot twice by an assassin, naval engineers came together to build a similar ice machine cooling system to keep him cool and comfortable. This new device was filled with cloths soaked in water and used a fan to blow hot air overhead and keep the cooler air closer to the ground. Incredibly the device can lower the temperature in his room by 20 degrees Fahrenheit, from 95 degrees down to a much more comfortable 75 degrees! Unfortunately, the device required an extreme amount of ice to operate, consuming more than a half-million pounds of ice in only two months.

The modern air conditioning system was developed by engineer Willis Haviland Carrier in the 1900s. Since then design and efficiency have improved, but the general idea of cooling rooms is still quite desirable, especially for Florida residents.