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A History of Air-conditioning: The Good, the Bad, and the COOL

10th August 2017

The New York Times and The Atlantic discuss the history, prevalence, and importance of something we may take for granted: air-conditioning. To learn more about how A/C “conquered America,” check out Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything, by Salvatore Basile, published by Fordham University Press.

Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything, by Salvatore Basile

Air-conditioning has been in the news quite a lot recently. On August 9, 2017, The Atlantic published an article entitled “The Moral History of Air-Conditioning,” discussing how “cooling the air was once seen as sinful.” Fordham Press author Salvatore Basile describes how, despite this stigma, A/C was a leap forward in the medical world:

“Despite the shadow of immorality, breakthroughs in air-conditioning developed out of desperation. Doctors scrambling to heal the sick took particular interest. In 1851, a Florida doctor named John Gorrie received a patent for the first ice machine. According to Salvatore Basile, the author of Cool: How Air-Conditioning Changed Everything, Gorrie hadn’t initially sought to invent such an apparatus. He’d been trying to alleviate high fevers in malaria patients with cooled air. To this end, he designed an engine that could pull in air, compress it, then run it through pipes, allowing the air to cool as it expanded.

Outside of his office though, people saw no practical need for this achievement. It wasn’t until the pipes on Gorrie’s machine unexpectedly froze and began to develop ice that he found a new opportunity…”

Read the full article here.

From The New York Times:

How Air-Conditioning Conquered America (Even the Pacific Northwest)
By Emily Badger and Alan Blinder, August. 4, 2017

“Air-conditioning has been remarkably good at creating demand for itself.

It enabled the sweeping postwar development of the South, where all new single-family homes today include central air. In automobiles, it made the commutes between air-conditioned homes and air-conditioned offices possible. In the Southwest, its arrival facilitated new methods of rapid construction, replacing traditional building designs that once naturally withstood the region’s desert climate.

By doing all of this, air-conditioning has contributed to the intensive energy demand that worsens climate change that, well, forces us to rely on air-conditioning, a feedback loop environmentalists fear.

And so here we are, in 2017, with temperatures racing past 100 degrees in the Pacific Northwest, the region of the country that has historically relied the least on air-conditioning. And now more people, even there, are installing the technology…”

Read the full article here.