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Air Conditioning History Is Part of Gulf Coast History


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Air Conditioning History Is Part of Gulf Coast History

Everyone living on the Gulf Coast in the Cities of Panama City, Destin, Fort Walton, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Pensacola should know the history of the air conditioner because it took place in their back yard. Air conditioning is a necessity on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Even though many people consider air conditioning a necessity, they do not know who invented it or where it was created. Many Florida residents would be shocked to find out that the origins of the air conditioner go back to a small town east of Panama City.

The beginnings of the mechanical air conditioning and refrigeration began in the town of Apalachicola. Apalchicola is a small town located south east of Tallahassee in Northwest Florida. In 1833, A doctor named John Gorrie moved from New York to Apalachicola. At the time, Appalachicola had become the center of a large timber industry. The thriving timber industry drew many people to Apalachicola. Because Apalachicola is on the gulf coast of Florida, it experiences warm temperatures and heavy rainfall. These factors combined with the swamplands around the Apalachicola River basin caused many people in the area to suffer diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Gorrie moved to Apalachicola to study the tropical diseases. Gorrie believed that the heat had something to do with the illness because malaria and yellow fever were very prevalent in tropical areas. The word malaria acutally means bad air in Italian and Gorrie believed that the air and the heat was causing the illness.

Gorrie believed that the cure for these illnesses lied with cool, clean air. He began subjecting his patients to cooler temperatures in order to heal them. In the 1800’s the only way to cool his patients was to use ice. At that time ice was hard to come by in Florida. To get ice in Florida, blocks of ice were cut from lakes up north and shipped south. In order to keep the blocks they were placed in ice houses underground. As you can imagine this was a very expensive way to cool patients and Gorrie began to search for a better way. Gorrie began to experiment with a way to make ice. He began to work on what would become the beginnings of mechanical refrigeration.

Gorrie’s experiments would lead him to use mechanical energy to compress air. By compressing air and then releasing it, Gorrie found that the air would absorb heat and this would eventually chill what ever was in contact with the cylinder. Gorrie had discovered that when air is compressed and released it expands and absorbes large amounts of heat. When this process is repeated many times the air would eventually remove heat from the water that surrounded the cylinder. Eventually, this machine would cool the water enough to turn it into ice. In 1948, Gorrie filed the first patent for an artificial refrigeration machine. Granted on May 6, 1851 the U.S. Patent No. 8080, “Improved process for the artificial production of ice” was official.

After his patent was officially granted, Gorrie would become the Father of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. Many experiments in refrigeration were being conducted at that time but Gorrie was the first to patent a mechanical refrigeration machine. It would be many years after Gorrie’s patent that refrigeration and air condition would make it into modern lives. Although Gorrie was unable to capitalized off of is invention, his contributions to mechanical refrigeration have impacted the lives of many in the modern world.

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