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His invention heated up growth

The physician who obtained a patent for the first air conditioner would be astonished at its success.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 23, 2002

Hot enough for you? Well, life in Florida would be a lot more unbearable if not for the underappreciated inventor that the Hyde Park North school commemorates.

John Gorrie was a New York-educated doctor who arrived in Apalachicola in 1833. He developed a device that blew compressed air over ice to keep his malaria patients cool. Today it is recognized as the forerunner to the modern air conditioner.

But Gorrie's contraption needed refinement. It required imported ice from New England. When shipments were late or undersized, his patients suffered. Sometime around 1842, Gorrie's machine was mistakenly left running overnight. In the morning, Gorrie was surprised to find ice clinging to the pipes. Now Gorrie had a crude ice making machine on his hands.

By 1851, Gorrie had obtained a patent for his refined machine. But skepticism and nervous Northern ice sellers prevented Gorrie from securing investors. He died a poor and lonely man in 1855.

-- Source: Tampa Bay History Center

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