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On July 17, 1902, Willis Carrier designed the first modern air-conditioning system, launching an industry that would dramatically improve the way we live, work and play. Willis Carrier was on a Pittsburgh train platform, staring into the foggy climate that surrounded him. Genius struck him, when he thought of an idea that could dry air by passing it through water to create fog. By doing so it would make it possible to manufacture air with specific amounts of moisture in it! Within a year of this inception, he completed his invention to control humidity – the fundamental building block for modern air conditioning.

Willis Haviland Carrier was born on November 26, 1876 in Angola, New York. He studied at Cornell University and graduated in 1901 with a BS in engineering. Shortly after, he started working at the Buffalo Forge Company, and a series of fortunate events led up to the genius concept of home air conditioning.

The issue began with paper, in the spring of 1902. The Sackett & Wilhelms printing plant, a client of the Buffalo Forge Company, had a humidity problem that wreaked havoc with multicolor printing. The Ink (applied one color at a time) would misalign with the expansion of the paper stock, which caused poor quality and lost production days. The Sackett & Wilhelms printing plant at the time was one of the important clients whose production schedule was at risk.

The head of Buffalo Forge’s sales activities in New York, J. Irvine Lyle, decided to send Willis Carrier to assess the problem. This would be the first step in a long and prosperous collaboration, as Carrier immediately grasped the issues and began his research by doing rigorous testing and intensive data collection. After a few failed tests, Carrier tried an experiment: replacing steam with cold water flowing through heating coils, which balances the temperature of the coil surface with the rate of airflow. With a few modifications, trial and errors, and determination to finish what he started, the experiment was successful!

It’s amazing to think that this concept for modern air conditioning arose from an unlikely place. Willis Carrier thought that if you can saturate air and control its temperature at saturation, you can get air with any amount of moisture in it. By 1905, Carrier became the head of the Buffalo Forge Engineering Department. The company became more successful in the following years leading up to the first World War under Carrier’s supervision, and in 1907 they branched out into different industries by installing an air conditioning unit at a pharmaceutical plant in Detroit, Michigan!

When World War I began, there were many speculations that factories could potentially shut down. Carrier and his business partner J. Irvine Lyle decided that this would be a great opportunity to start a new company, and five other colleagues from the Buffalo Forge Company joined them in this next entrepreneurial venture. The seven of them altogether scraped up $32,600 in capitals (collectively), and despite the economic downturn with the world war, built an entire new industry in America.

At the end of the day, we all should be thankful for the air conditioning capabilities we have today. Willis Carrier just happened to be at the right place at the right time, but more importantly, he was prepared to grasp opportunity when it knocked on his door. If you want to read more about the Carrier Engineering Corporation during the First World War, check out our next article covering the years following up to the 21st century![/cs_text][cs_text class=”cs-ta-left”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-left”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-left”][cs_text class=”cs-ta-left”][/cs_column][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/3″ style=”padding: 10px;”][x_widget_area sidebar=”sidebar-main” ][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]