It is the middle of summer and it is hot outside. In some places really hot. It brings to mind one of my favorite innovations, air conditioning. Air conditioning was innovated by Willis Haviland Carrier around 1902 in upstate New York. I say innovated rather than invented because the basic idea already existed, but Carrier was able to perfect it and take it to market.

Edison once said referring to the creation of some of his inventions, “I start where the last man left off.” Carrier did exactly that, he took what had already been created and took it a few steps further. The basic idea of moving around cool air had been around for thousands of years. The one important component, the compressor, had been around for nearly a hundred years, but they had trouble finding an effective coolant. Water did not work well and some of the other chemicals they tried were poisonous. Circulating deadly air was not going to work no matter how cool it was. Carrier came up with a non toxic coolant and was able to make a system that worked very well.

As important as the system itself, was Carrier’s ability to sell the system. Air conditioning really took off, first in movie theaters, then in office buildings and eventually in homes. All of this because Carrier was able to build on what other people had begun, make it better and then sell it to the hot consumers. So the next time you come in from the heat, think about Carrier and take time to build on others’ ideas. You never know what cool innovation you may come up with.

To learn more about how air conditioners work please see the video below:

This blog was originally posted July 25, 2012

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