The humble refrigerator has become such a part of our daily lives that it is hard to believe that it was invented just over two hundred years ago. Artificial refrigeration research started in the middle of the 18th century when a Scottish professor called William Cullen started researching various methods of cooling.
Before the 18th century, very basic methods of cooling were used by civilizations all over the world to preserve food and keep different types of food items frozen for later use. The following is a history of the refrigerator and about how it was invented and details about who invented the refrigerator:
Ancient History of Refrigeration
The Chinese as early as 1000 BC used to harvest ice from lakes and rivers during the winter months for daily use. Many civilizations used harvested ice in various ways and used to store the ice in containers, jars or even insulated pits to make it last longer and stop it from melting.
The Greeks, Indians, Persians, Romans, Hebrews, and Egyptians all harvested ice and various forms of Ice boxes were used until the 18th century. Ice harvesting was the only form of refrigeration till this time and many people just used the ice box as a refrigerator till then as it was the best refrigerator of that time.
The Early 19th Century
By the early 18th century, William Cullen had already invented the artificial refrigeration system in the middle of the previous century. But the system was never actually put in practical proposes till the 19th century. In 1805, an American inventor called Oliver Evans used the basic theory of the refrigeration system and replaced liquid to cool the system with vapor. Once the theory of the system of refrigeration was out there, the next step was for inventors to design the refrigerator as the machine that can be used as a cooling system.
This was the age of innovation and over the next few decades, a lot of progress was made in this field to make the best refrigerator. John Perkins patented the design for the first refrigeration system. In 1820, Michael Faraday liquefied ammonia among other gasses which were then used for cooling in refrigerators. After this John Perking got the patent for the vapor compression refrigeration system in 1834.
Later Half of the 19th Century
The invention of refrigeration for everyday use was becoming a necessity by the middle of the 19th century as there was a lot of development in this field by then. In the 1850s, John Gorrie patented the mechanical refrigeration machine and James Harrison patented the ether liquid vapor compression refrigerators system. The race was on to make the best refrigerator for home and commercial use. Many inventors like Ferdinand Carre, Charles Tellier, and Carl von Linde contributed to various technical aspects of the refrigerator. The world was very close to getting commercial use refrigerators in the last few decades of the 19th century.
Commercial Use Refrigerators
In the early years of the 20th century many companies that provide the best refrigerator even today were established. GE was one of the first companies to sell household refrigerator units that were powered by gas.
In the 1920s, Kelvinator started selling electric refrigerators and Electrolux and General Electric were also selling modern refrigerators in the 1920s. Refrigerators were first primarily used in elite homes in America and Britain but slowly refrigerators became more and more popular all over the world.
New technology in refrigeration is continuously being developed and people still look to buy newer versions of their refrigerators every few years. Refrigerators are constantly being reinvented. There are many local and international brands that are available in the market today and the reach of refrigerators has reached four corners of the planet.
Energy efficiency, temperature controls, door styles, childproofing, chilling, frost free technology, lighting, space size, and shelving technology is evolving even today and the best brands are outdoing each other to reinvent the refrigerators in the 21st century. Most homes in developed countries and a large percentage of homes in developing countries have refrigerators as it is the best way to keep food cool, frozen and make it last longer in all types of weather.
The basic question of who invented the refrigerator is a rather tricky one. As mentioned above the first inventors of the refrigerators designed the theory in the middle of the 18th century. In early 21th century, the modern refrigerators are still a work in progress as they have been over the last 200 years.
The invention of the refrigerator has revolutionized not just the way we store food but also many perishable goods all over the world are refrigerated today. From small refrigerators to large refrigerated rooms and pantries, today this technology that was first invented in the 18th century is used extensively in many purposes today. The refrigerator is a basic home appliance today and the invention of this appliance has truly benefited the world.