Subject : History of AC

From: (Paul Skoczylas)

Who has the first A/C patent, and what is the basis for its design? (i.e. How does it work?)

If the answer to the above question is later than 1892 (Scotland: William Key & Robert Tindall), why? The newspaper article I saw this in, says that Cramer, 1904 is usually considered to have the first A/C patent. Is his system so much more advanced than Key's?

(Key and Tindall built a rudimentary A/C system in the Victoria Infirmiry, Glasgow, 1890. I'm also told that Key was a successful engineer of his time, and one of his other projects was the heating system in the Old Bailey, London.)

Can anyone shed some light on this matter?

From: Chuck Gaston

I have access to a chronological list of developments in the fields of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. It was developed by Bernard Nagengast, one of the authors of "Heat and Cold". The following items are extracted from that chronology, which has other pertinent entries as well.

1755 - Scientific recognition that expanding gases and evaporating liquids absorb heat.
1803 - Thomas Moore of Maryland received a patent on refrigeration.
1824 - Attempt to ventilate a hospital in India with cool air from tunnels.
1844 - Charles Piazzi Smyth built machine for comfort cooling.
1848 - Dr. David Boswell Reid proposed cooling Parliament air with well water and ice.
1865 - Cold storage warehouse in New York.
1869 - Cold storage plant installed by Charles Tellier in France.
1870 - Peter Vander Weyde earned U.S. patent #105,609 for a refrigeration system with a thermostat.
1875 - Cold storage & freezing complex designed by Thomas Mort began operation in Australia
1876 - "Le Frigoriifique" successfully transported shipload of meat.
1888 - Industrial air cooling system installed in New York building.
1894 - Hermann Reitschel of Germany published book including chapter on comfort air conditioning.
1902 - Year-round air conditioning system installed at New York Stock Exch.
1902 - Air dehumidifying system designed by Willis Carrier.
1904 - Public debut of air conditioning at St. Louis World's Fair.
1906 - Stuart Cramer first uses term "air conditioning".

Early refrigeration systems may have been based on sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, ether and other refrigerants; for most of the systems mentioned I have no idea which was used.

I did not see any mention of Key & Tindall in Nagengast's list.

There is a certain tendency for a nation's history to give "first" credit to the inventor obtaining the first patent within that country.


Best I can tell the first patented refrigeration (ICE MAKING) system was patented in 1834 by Jacob Perkins, an American living in London. It was originally intended to use ethyl ether in a closed vapor compression cycle, but he substituted a distillation byproduct, caoutchoucine, and made a small quantity of ice.

By the 1860's mechanical refrigeration was common practice, with an 1869 brewery cooling project in New Orleans being first to use ammonia as a refrigerant...

About the same time (mid 19th century) some hospitals made crude air conditioning by blowing air across tubs of ice. The fans in those days were often steam powered or (worse) human powered.

Willis Carrier is given a lot of credit for room air conditioning using vapor compression, can't find the exact date but somewhere around 1905. There are some other names but my records are a mess and I can't get to the info readily. I do know that Carrier put all the info about air conditioning on first psychrometric chart around 1911.

By the end of the 1920s there were a number of movie theaters with air conditioning, and the next decade saw AC move into residences.

Long answer, not directly to the point... ASHRAE recently collected a lot of historical data on refrigeration and air conditioning since ASHRAE celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.... maybe somebody can fill in the details.

Mel Crichton, ASHRAE member... my opinions, not my company's...

Back to Interesting Threads Index