The first electrical air conditioner was invented by Willis Haviland Carrier in the year 1902, just a year after his graduation from Cornell University with a Masters in Engineering.
While working as an employee for Buffalo Forge Company, Carrier designed this machine for the owner of a printing plant who was having trouble printing because of fluctuations in heat and humidity.
The apparatus designed by Carrier helped maintain a stable climatic condition within the plant fixing the owner’s printing woes.
Carrier patented his design of an air conditioner in 1906. He went on to patent many more designs related to air conditioning and gained the title of ‘father of air conditioning’. The term air conditioning, however, was not a brainchild of Willis Carrier. In fact, it was used by a textile engineer, Stuart Cramer, in his patent claim.
Later on, Carrier revealed his psychometric formulae to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). These formulae are used even today in calculations for the air conditioning industry.
Willis Carrier says that he got the idea of an air conditioner while waiting for a train. It was foggy, and he was thinking about the problems of temperature and humidity. By the time the train reached the station, Carrier had a clear understanding of the relationship between temperature, humidity and dew point.
The invention of the air conditioner was just the beginning of a series of achievements for Carrier. In 1915, he established the Carrier Engineering Corporation, a company dedicated to improving the quality of air conditioning. The company, which started with a base capital of $35,000, posted sales of $5 billion in 1995.
Carrier began designing air conditioning systems for industries, and these industries flourished with the new ability to control the environment through their various manufacturing processes. This led to a subsequent increase in the quality of the goods they produced.
In 1924, Carrier changed his focus towards air conditioning for people. After installing an air conditioner in a J.L. Hudson department store in Detroit, and observing the sudden influx of customers, the demand for smaller air conditioning units by stores and movie theatres boomed. He obliged.
In 1928, Carrier launched the first residential air conditioning unit, called the ‘Weathermaker’.