On January 2nd, 1906, Willis Carrier received a US patent for the world’s first air conditioner, the first modern air-conditioning system, launching an industry that would fundamentally improve the way that we live, work and play.
Born in 1876, Carrier grew up in Angola, New York and later attended Cornell University, where he studied engineering. In 1902, he was working for the Buffalo Forge Company when he was tasked with designing a system to control the humidity in a printing plant. This led him to develop a machine that could both cool and dehumidify the air, using a process called vapor compression. After several more years of refinement and field testing, on January 2, 1906, Carrier was granted U.S. Patent 808,897 for an Apparatus for Treating Air, the world's first spray-type air conditioning equipment.
Shortly thereafter, he formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation. The company quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality air conditioning systems and was soon supplying them to a wide range of customers, including theaters, department stores, and office buildings. In 1915, he founded Carrier Corporation, a company specializing in the manufacture and distribution of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC).
The company ran into financial difficulties, as did many other companies, because of the Crash of 1929. In 1930, Carrier Engineering Corp. merged with Brunswick-Kroeschell Company and York Heating & Ventilating Corporation under the Carrier Corporation name, with Willis Carrier named chairman of the board. That same year, Carrier started Toyo Carrier in Japan and Samsung Applications in Korea.
Willis Carrier's 1940 prophecy that "we may expect air conditioning to be operated as a public utility and applied to extensive areas in our cities" took shape in 1962 when the Hartford Gas Company in Connecticut sold cooling and heating in downtown Hartford by underground pipelines. Six more plants around the country soon placed contracts, including one received for the world's largest central plant—22,500 tons of cooling—in Albany, New York.
Throughout his career, Carrier received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field of engineering. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1975, twenty-five years after his death, and the Carrier Corporation, which he founded, became a leader in the air conditioning industry. Carrier brand continues to thrive and innovate to this day, thanks in large part to the vision and hard work of Willis Carrier.