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Willis Carrier

Date of birth : 1876-11-26
Date of death : 1950-10-09
Birthplace : Angola, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-09-27

Willis Haviland Carrier was an engineer and inventor, and is known as the man who invented air conditioning. He is considered to be at least partially responsible for the economic boom of the American Southwest as his invention meant that people were able to move into areas previously considered uninhabitable in the summer months.

Carrier was born in Angola, New York on the shore of Lake Erie, and inherited his mother's love for "tinkering", with clocks, sewing machines, and other household devices. He loved mathematics, and studied it at every chance, when he wasn't inventing his own devices.

In 1895 he received a scholarship to Cornell University and graduated in 1901 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Following college, he went to work for the Buffalo Forge Company, a company which manufactured heaters, blowers and air exhaust systems, in their heating engineering department designing heating systems to dry lumber and coffee.

Carrier soon developed a better way to measure the capacity of heating systems and was named director of the company's experimental engineering department. At the age of 25, he devised his first important invention, a system to control heat and humidity for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn. The firm had been unable to print reliable colors at times because of the effects of heat and humidity on paper and ink. In 1906 Carrier received a patent for his method. He went on to work on other cooling and humidity-control inventions, and was eventually made the head of the Buffalo Forge subsidiary named Carrier Air Conditioning Company in his honor.

When World War I arrived, Buffalo Forge was forced to cut back on speculative processes, and eliminated their air conditioning division. Carrier, with six colleagues, staked $32,600 on their own company, Carrier Engineering Corporation. Some of the company's first customers included Madison Square Gardens and the chambers of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He installed the first home air conditioning in a house in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Carrier moved his company to Syracuse, New York in the 1930s, and the company became one of the largest employers in central New York. In 1930, he started Toyo Carrier in Japan. Japan is now the largest market for air conditioning in the world.

The company pioneered the design and manufacture of refrigeration machines to cool large spaces. By increasing industrial production in the summer months, air conditioning revolutionized American life. The introduction of residential air conditioning in the 1920s helped start the great migration to the Sunbelt. In 2000 the Carrier Corporation had sales of more than $8 billion and employed some 45,000 people.


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