Calendar of Inventive Contributors to the Development of Refrigeration, 1748-1885

(Anderson, OE., Refrigeration in America: A History of a New Technology and its Impact. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953)

1748William Cullen (1710-1790) of Scotland demonstrated the reduction in temperature when ether is evaporated in a partial vacuum. In 1775 he described his apparatus and gave a public lecture on "Cold Produced by Evaporating Fluids."
1756Joseph Black (1728-1790) of Scotland demonstrated his theory of latent heat and lectured on the latent heat of fusion and of evaporation at Glasgow University. He announced "fixed air," later identified as carbon dioxide.
1774Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) of England and the United States discovered oxygen and isolated ammonia. He observed the high affinity of ammonia for water.
1777Edward Nairne (1726-1806) of Scotland worked with William Cullen in sulphuric acid absorption experiments and demonstrated the reduction in total volume when water and sulphuric acid are mixed.
1777Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) of France announced the chemical series and the theory of combustion.
1781Tiberius Cavallo (1749-1809) of Italy and England, in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, described experiments on the production of cold by evaporation of ethers.
1787Jacques Alexandre César Charles (1746-1823) of France stated the effect of temperature on gas volume (Charles' law—by some called Gay-Lussac's law).
1800Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753-1814), of the United States and England organized scientific societies of Britain and gave lectures on the nature of heat.
1803John Dalton (1766-1844) of England introduced the atomic theory, published a "New System of Chemical Philosophy" and announced the law of gases usually named Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures.
1805Oliver Evans (1755-1819) of the United States proposed a closed cycle of compression refrigeration in his book The Abortion of a Young Steam Engineer's Guide. His description inspired others in the United States and Britain to take out patents on mechanical refrigeration machines.
1809Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778-1850) of France verified the gas laws of Charles and of Boyle: PV = RT.
1810John Leslie (1766-1832) of Scotland described a water-absorption apparatus using sulphuric acid for producing cold.
1819Robert Salmon (1763-1821) of England with William Worrell received Patent No. 4331 for artificial cooling of beverages. It was the first British patent for the production of cold.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) of England liquefied chlorine, sulphuric acid and nitrous oxide. He did outstanding work in electricity and mechanics and made many discoveries on the laws of magnetism that led to the electric generator and motor.
1824Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot (1796-1832) of France presented his essays on heat flow and the theory of heat engines.
1824John Vallance (1801-1850) of England took out British Patents Nos. 4884 and 5001, to use sulphuric acid in an absorption cooling process. He made ice in demonstrations using a vacuum.
1828Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) of England gave a dissertation on the production of artificial cold. He was a correspondent of Oliver Evans' and later a conferee of Jacob Perkins', who received a British patent one year after Trevithick's death.
1834James Prescott Joule (1818-1889) of England reported on his determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat. He established the value of 792 foot-pounds equal to 1 B.T.U., later proven to be in error by less than one-half of one percent.
1834Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) of the United States and England took out British Patent No. 6662 for the production of cold by expansion of volatile liquids in a closed cycle. John Hague, in East London, operated a Perkins compressor and made ice.
1835Charles Saint-Ange Thilorier (1797-1852) of France made solid carbon dioxide and solid mercury. He was a conferee of Michael Faraday's.
1835Kenneth Kemp (1807-1843) of Scotland independently solidified carbon dioxide, the first to do so in Great Britain.
Julius Robert Mayer (1814-1878) of Germany verified Joule's determinations and expressed a version of the first law of thermodynamics, then publishing his findings and papers as The Mechanics of Heat.
1844John Gorrie (1803-1855) of the United States described his new machine in the Apalachicola (Florida) Commercial Advertiser. In 1851 he was granted U.S. Patent No. 8080. This was the first commercial machine in the world built and used for refrigeration and air cooling. Gorrie received international recognition. His machine was built in New Orleans, and then used in the hospital at Apalachicola.
1850Edmund Carré (1822-1890?) of France introduced a commercial sulphuric acid absorption machine using the Leslie principle. He installed units in restaurants and hotels in France, England and Australia, some as absorption, others as mechanical compression, units.
1850Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius (1822-1888) of Germany restated the second law of thermodynamics. He was the principal founder of the kinetic theory of gases, although he was primarily a mathematical and not an experimental physicist.
1852Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900) of Italy and England made many experiments on the production of cold and reported these to the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
1853William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) of England and Joule of England discovered the Joule-Thomson Effect.
1853Alexander C. Twining (1801-1884) of the United States took out U.S. Patent No. 10,221 and operated a 1,600-pound-a-day ice plant at Cleveland, using sulphuric ether.
1855W. James Harrison (1816-1893) of Scotland and Australia invented and operated an ether compression machine and made ice on a commercial scale. His first patent was issued in Australia in 1855; it was followed by British Patents No. 747 in 1856 and No. 2362 in 1857.
1858Benjamin M. Nyce (1809-1873) of the United States took out the first U.S. patent, No. 21,977, on cold-storage-house design. He followed up by building public cold-storage houses in Indianapolis, Covington (Kentucky), Cleveland and New York City.
1859Ferdinand P. E. Carré (1824-1894) of France obtained British Patent No. 2503 using ammonia with water. He introduced the first ammonia absorption unit, which became the pattern for many American absorption plants. His American patent was No. 30,201, dated 1860.
1861Thomas Sutcliffe Mort (1816-1878) of England and Australia erected the first cold-storage plant, in Darling Harbor, Sydney, Australia. With Eugène Nicolle he designed and built the Fresh Food and Ice Company Plant in Sydney.
1861Eugène Dominique Nicolle (1824-1895?) of France and Australia, manager of P. N. Russell and Company of Sydney, Australia, built the first Harrison machines, then designed and built the Mort-Nicolle ice plants at the Royal Hotel in Sydney.
1862Alexander Carnegie Kirk (1830-1892) of Scotland invented a closed-cycle air refrigeration system, British Patents Nos. 1218 and 2211. He presented a paper to the Institute of Civil Engineers on "The Mechanical Production of Cold" January 20, 1874. He developed his compressor in place of a Harrison ether machine to obviate explosions.
1864Charles Tellier (1828-1913) of France took out British Patent No. 387 on a vapor-compression machine using methyl ether. He took out a U.S. patent in 1869, after completing a machine for the George Merz brewery of New Orleans in 1868.
1865Daniel Livingston Holden (1837-1924) of the United States redesigned at San Antonio, Texas, the Carré ammonia-absorption machine, equipping it with steam coils, and used distilled water to make clear ice. This placed the Carré machines on a commercial basis. Holden-type Carré machines were installed and operated at Shreveport in 1866 and at San Antonio in 1865-66. In 1869 a Carré plant of sixty-ton capacity was built in New Orleans.
1867Thaddeus S. C. Lowe (1832-1913) of the United States built a carbon dioxide compressor, British Patent No. 952. He made commercial ice in Dallas in 1866 and in Jackson, Mississippi. He was an international leader in the use of lighter-than-air balloons inflated with carbon dioxide. Lowe's invention of a carbon dioxide compressor is dated 1865.
1869Henry Peyton Howard (1829-1913) of the United States transported a shipload of frozen beef from Indianola, Texas, to New Orleans and served it in hospitals, hotels and restaurants.
1869Thomas Andrews (1813-1885) of Ireland and Scotland published a paper on "The Continuity of the Liquid and Gaseous States of Matter." He discovered that every gas has a critical temperature above which it cannot be liquefied.
1869John Beath (1831-1917) and Samuel Martin of the United States built compression machines in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland (Oregon), and secured U.S. Patent No. 127,180 in 1872. Beath independently secured absorption-system patents in 1873 and established plants in Chattanooga, Atlanta, New Orleans and Galveston. After Beath and Martin parted company in 1872, Beath specialized in absorption system.
1869Daniel Livingston Holden of the United States took out U.S. Patent No. 95,347 on a special freezing machine called the "Regealed." He also held the rights of Peter Van der Weyde's Patent No. 87,084 of 1867, which used naphtha as a refrigerant. He built several Van der Weyde plants before 1870 in Texas and Louisiana.
1869Franz Windhausen (1829-1904) of Germany in 1868 built a single-cylinder cold-air machine, and subsequently a two-cylinder unit under a British patent of 1869. He built about one hundred of these machines for Europe and the United States. In 1876 he invented a vacuum ice machine of which he built and installed 120 units, without great success. He then turned, in 1885, to carbon dioxide machines, with which he was more successful.
1871Andrew Muhl (1831-1881) of the United States built a machine at San Antonio and took out U.S. Patent No. 121,888. He operated this machine in 1867, and in 1871 he built an ice plant of his own design. He took out a second U.S. patent, No. 146,267, in 1874, on air conditioning, and made a contract with the Columbus Iron Works, Columbus, Georgia (canceled after two years).
1872David Boyle (1837-1891) of Scotland and the United States invented and operated an ammonia compressor, U.S. Patent No. 128,448. He operated his first machine at Jefferson, Texas, in 1873 and made ice for one season; then be moved to Chicago. This was the first commercial compression plant in the world using ammonia to make ice. With the aid of R. T. Crane he built three ammonia compressors, one for the King Ranch in Texas, one for Austin, Texas, and one for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.
1872David Smith (1834-1903) of Scotland and the United States was the original inventor of the plate ice system. By enclosing the ammonia pipes in long metal containers he prevented contamination with the freezing water between the metal surfaces. Plate ice was thus formed and released for harvesting by sending hot gas through the coils.
1873Paul Giffard (1837-1897) of France secured British Patent No. 627 on an air refrigeration machine, the first in France. He exhibited his first commercial machine at the Paris Exposition in 1877.
1873Elbridge H. Holden (1841-1922) of the United States established the first mechanically refrigerated abattoir at Fulton, Texas, in partnership with his older brother, Daniel. It had a capacity of one hundred head of beeves a day and was successfully operated until 1881.
1874Francis V. DeCoppet of the United States, three years after application, received U.S. Patent No. 156,056 on an ammonia compressor. He had participated in the installation of Carré absorption units in 1868 and 1869 with Sylvester Bennett at Gretna, Louisiana; the De La Vergne Refrigerating Machine Company of New York and the Fred W. Wolf Company of Chicago used DeCoppet compressor patent rights. DeCoppet in 1874 received an additional U.S. patent on an improved absorber used by Blymyer and Company of Cincinnati.
1874Carl von Linde (1842-1934) of Germany built his first ammonia refrigeration system. He received British Patent No. 1468 in 1876, and an American patent for the same in 1880.
1874Raoul Pictet (1842-1904) of Switzerland patented the sulphur dioxide compressor, and then developed Pictet Fluid, a mixture of sulphur dioxide with a small percentage of carbon dioxide. He built and installed many small machines in Europe and North America.
1876Thomas L. Rankin (1839-1915) of the United States participated in the building of the Louisiana Ice Works, 1868-69, in New Orleans, and then turned to improving the absorption system for breweries, icehouses and packing plants. He received U.S. Patent No. 175,498 in 1876 on an absorption refrigeration system. He received authorization in 1879 to install that system in the Jacob Ruppert brewery, New York City. Rankin was one of the first inventors of refrigerated railway meat cars, manufacturing them at Denison and Dallas, Texas, in 1872.
1876Harrison D. Stratton (1847?-1928?) of the United States reviewed the performance of the Carré absorption machine at Augusta as used for hospital ice. He was employed to help direct building the sixty-ton Louisiana Ice Works plant, 1868 to 1870. In 1876 he received a U.S. patent on an absorption system that became the basis for several score plants built by the Columbus Iron Works, Georgia.
1877Leicester L. Allen (1832-1912?) of the United States received U.S. Patents Nos. 193,631, 237,359 and 237,360 on the Allen dense-air refrigeration machine for United States Navy and kindred uses.
1877Gustavus F. Swift (1839-1903) of the United States in 1877 put into operation a refrigerator car to ship fresh meats, which fifteen years later had expanded to ninety-seven thousand refrigerated transport units.
1878Charles J. Ball (1846-1901) of the United States built an absorption ice plant in Sherman, Texas, patterned after the Holden and Rankin designs but using a separate slide-valve engine to drive the aqua-ammonia pump, the cold-water circulation system and other auxiliaries. His five-ton plant cost twelve thousand dollars.
1879Henry Bell (1848-1931) and John Bell (1850-1929) of Scotland and Joseph James Coleman (1838-1888) of England completed the Bell-Coleman dense-air machine on the Anchor liner Circassia sailing for New York. British Patent No. 1034 was dated 1877. Coleman worked with Kirk at Bathgate on air refrigeration compressors. Henry and John Bell with the help of Glasgow shipbuilders developed the Bell-Coleman dense-air machine.
1880Fred W. Wolf (1837-1912) of Germany and the United States built the first Wolf-Linde ammonia compressor and installed it in Chicago. The Fred W. Wolf Company, which he had established in 1867, is still in the refrigeration business as a Wolf-Linde manufacturing operation.
1880Charles Zilker (1864-1946) of the United States built absorption plants of his own design, beginning in 1880, across the Gulf states and north to Pittsburgh. His plants were usually manufactured by local machine shops without patent protection. He designed and built absorption plants from Austin westward to Atlanta, then northward to Pittsburgh.
1881John C. De La Vergne (1840-1896) of the United States built his first refrigeration machine with the help of William H. Mixer and established the De La Vergne Machine Company in New York City. He was very successful as a designer of ammonia compressors for ice plants, cold-storage houses and breweries.
1881Alfred Seale Haslam (1844-1927) of England equipped the liner Orient with Haslam refrigeration compressors. He bought the Bell-Coleman dense-air patents in 1878 and subsequently equipped four hundred plants and ships with Bell-Coleman machines.
1881Thomas Bell Lightfoot (1849-1921) of England in 1880 and 1881 developed the Lightfoot dry-air refrigerator and in 1881 presented a paper to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers on "Machines for Producing Cold Air." He was associated with Linde and J. & E. Hall Company on both ammonia and dry-air equipment. His original British patent of 1880 was for a two-stage dry-air compressor.
1882George Frick (1826-1892) of the United States established an engine works at Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. He signed and delivered for Norris Ferguson of Baltimore a vertical ammonia compressor to be driven by a Frick horizontal engine. Many hundred Frick compressors were subsequently installed around the world.
1882Ernst Vilter (1834-1890) of Germany and the United States developed his first refrigerating machine, a horizontal double-acting steam-driven unit, and installed it at Milwaukee. The Vilter Company is one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of refrigeration machines in North America.
1884Thomas Shipley (1861-1930) of the United States joined York and Company and developed many patents for them.
1885Heinke Kammerlingh Onnes (1853-1926) of Holland established the Leiden Cryogenic Laboratory and directed researches as professor of physics, University of Leiden. In his attempts to liquefy helium he approached to within one degree of absolute zero.