Living in malaria-stricken Florida in the 1850s, Dr. John Gorrie had a problem: how to keep his recovering patients cool? At the time, ice for refrigeration was cut from frozen lakes and packed in sawdust for transport to Florida.
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With a great deal of engineering savvy, Gorrie found a way to use compressed air and condensation to make ice, then ran a fan across the ice to keep his infirmary cool. By doing so, he developed the world’s first system for mechanical refrigeration, patented in May 1851: an icemaker.
Gorrie died in obscurity, his achievement too “far out” for his time. It wasn’t until the 1890s that ice merchants discovered the magic of Gorrie’s system, which led to the design of air conditioning. In 1911, Gorrie was honored with a statue as one of two representatives of Florida history in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Across the street, Gorrie is buried in Gorrie Square.