Why does your mouth water when you see an ice-cream? How can you shop and still be cool? Why are long drives not annoying? Why is watching movies in a multiplex so comfortable? How can you beat the heat in summer? The answers to all these questions have one thing in common. Yes, you guessed it right. It’s an AIR CONDITIONER AND THE REFRIGERATION SYSTEM. But was the invention made just to suffice the needs of comforts and luxury of human beings???
On second thoughts, how to increase the shelf life of perishable products? How to deliver and store good food……..6000 miles from home? What facilitates production of life saving drugs? What prevents decomposition of dead remains in a morgue? What keeps hospitals and medical institutions germ free and hygienic? There are many such questions and the answer is yet the same - an air conditioner and the refrigeration system. These are machines that not only provide physical comfort but also improve the quality of the living conditions of the people and the sources on which they are so dependent.
The credit goes to Willis Haviland Carrier, the father of modern refrigeration and air conditioning system. But what idea sparked in Willis Carrier’s mind? What inspired him to make such a unique discovery? Was the invention just an accident or was it made in the process of solving certain mechanical problem? Let us recall the stages in his lifecycle which gave the world a celebrity whose discovery has been compared to other inventors like Thomas Alva Edison and the Wright Brothers. Each episode of his life and career presents the picture of ‘Carrier’ the man, the icon, the genius and the leader.
Duane Carrier and his wife Elizabeth Carrier became proud parents of a bonny baby boy, Willis Carrier, on 26th November, 1876, in Angola, New York. Duane Carrier initially began his career as a music teacher and taught music to the local villagers in Angola. He also ran a small grocery store and for some time worked as a postmaster. He finally settled himself as an ordinary farmer and lived a life of simplicity along with Elizabeth in their farmland in the western part of New York State. The birth of their only child brought lots of happiness and contentment in their lives. Elizabeth’s forefathers were natives of New England in the 17th Century. She was a ‘Birthright Quaker’ and the first in the family to marry outside her caste.
Duane Carrier would spend a lot of time on his farm and it was Elizabeth who managed the household chores all by herself. As time flew by, young Willis would happily play mechanics oriented games and enjoy assembling and fixing them. Perhaps, his inventive and mechanical skills were inherited from his mother as it was Elizabeth who fixed and repaired family clocks, sewing machines and other household machines. Little did Elizabeth know that one day her son would be an engineer and would create history in the world of Mechanical Engineering.
A Lesson For Life
Young Willis was enrolled in Angola Academy, a one room school, where he received his primary education. He was intelligent and studious, but at the age of nine, he started having trouble in grasping the concept of fractions. It was his mother who found a very innovative way to overcome his fear of solving it. She instructed him to go to the cellar and bring up a pan of apples. She then asked him to cut the apples in halves, quarters and eights and add and subtract the parts. Carrier recalls the episode very fondly and said, “She opened up a new world to me and gave me a pattern for solving problems that I have followed ever since.” “In one-half hour”, he said, “she educated me. Fractions took a new meaning and I was very proud. No problems would be hard for me after that. I would simply break them into something simple and then would be easy to solve. ”
Elizabeth took keen interest in Willis’ academic pursuits and taught him fractions and other mathematical problems that captured his interest and eventually inspired him to become an engineer.
Willis was a serious and hardworking student who toiled in the day at his father’s farm and often burned the midnight oil solving math problems. One day during a snowstorm he was so engrossed working on the geometry problems outside his home that he forgot the weather around him. Such was his dedication.
At the age of eleven Willis lost his mother whom he considered as his mentor and his idol, and he vowed to follow the path which she showed. Willis also attributed his talents in Mathematics and Mechanics to inheritance from his mother.
Taking into consideration his intelligence, Willis was asked by his school authorities to teach other students before entering Central High School in Buffalo, New York where he completed his secondary education. He then won a state scholarship and got admission in Cornell University to study Mechanical Engineering.
Willis was 6 feet 6 inches tall, athletic and possessed a robust personality. He was an all-rounder as he actively participated in swimming, skating, boxing and other sports events organized by his college. He worked hard and earned his way through college on scholarships, teachings, doing other odd jobs like mowing lawns, distributing milk, working as an agent for a boarding house and so on. He and some of his friends got together and began a laundry agency, a first of its kind in the United States. The main motive behind all this was the need to be financially independent. He would often recall his mother’s advice “FIGURE OUT THINGS YOURSELF”.
His handsome personality attracted Edith Claire Seymour, a Cornwell student and the two fell in love. After his graduation in Mechanical Engineering in 1901, they decided to unite forever and in the subsequent year, in 1902, they were happily married.
The First Step On The Path Of Development
Soon after completing his graduation, Willis was offered a job as an engineer with the Buffalo Forge Company in Buffalo, New York. The company was engaged in heating, drying and forced draft system. Willis was obsessed with mechanical engineering and accepted the job offer. He was determined to put mechanical engineering on a more rational basis than what was practiced at that time. In those days, engineers did not really understand the way the machinery functioned and hence, created huge and large factors of safety into their designs which led to inefficiencies.
Willis took this as a challenge and decided to probe further the functioning of the company’s products. At the end of just six months he submitted a paper titled “Mechanical Draft” at the company’s annual general meeting. His thesis was theoretical and on a very practical subject. Although it was delivered by a newcomer, yet, it impressed everybody. The company realized that Willis possessed mechanical talents and needed a platform to explore it further. They decided to provide him all the necessary technical and theoretical support and also allowed him to pursue his interest during and after normal working hours. Willis established the world’s first Research and Development laboratory, in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) industry at the Buffalo Forge Company. He was just 25 years old.
During his course of research, Willis discovered that except for physical and thermal properties of steam and air, there was no other data available. He regularly carried tests and experiments in the lab and derived equations to complete the calculations.
Willis’ first major job as a young engineer was to develop an air conditioning system for Sackett Wilhelm Lithographing Company situated in Brooklyn, New York.
The challenge faced by the company’s engineers was not heat but the humidity. The then consulting engineer, Walter Timmis, visited the Manhattan office of J. Irvine Lyle, the head of the Buffalo Forge’s sales team in New York to take stock of the situation.
The paper in their printing plant would expand or contract depending on the amount of water absorbed from the air. It was one size on a hot humid day and different on a hot dry day. Coloured printing also faced the same problem as colours overlapped or failed to match those printed on the previous day.
The printers had a tough time as they often had to reprint jobs or reduce the speed of their presses to match the quality. Timmis had a rough idea about how to solve the problem but he needed help and guidance. He approached Lyle who was very impressed with the Cornwell Graduate - Willis Carrier of the Buffalo Forge Company. He directed Timmis to Willis Carrier and the first step in a long and prosperous collaboration began.
How did Willis Carrier overcome this genuine problem?? The solution to resolve this problem gave birth to the concept of designing an air conditioned system.
The Infant Stages Of Cooling
Willis readily accepted the challenge and immediately began working on the problem. He and Timmis joined together and conducted certain experiments and test with a rolled towel woven in a burlap and saturated with a solution of calcium chlorine brine. Though the apparatus succeeded in removing heat, it added salt and odour to the air which was not acceptable in the printing procedure.
Willis then tried his own experiment by replacing steam with cold water flowing through heating coils and balancing the temperature of the coil surface with the rate of air flow and so on. Willis worked hard to resolve the issue and converted data obtained from tests and experiments into equations, tables and graphs.
He successfully charted the flow rate and temperature of chilled water and the flow rate through the coil needed to cool and dehumidify each cube foot of air to a specified temperature and humidity.
The first set of coils was installed along with fans, ducts, heaters and perforated steam pipes for the humidification process. Cooling water was drawn from an artesian well. Artesian well is a well in which pressurized water naturally rises to the surface. It is then supplemented by an ammonia compressor to meet the demands of the first full summer of operation. The system of chilled coils was designed to maintain a constant level of humidity of 55% all year round and have a cooling effect of melting 108,000 pounds of ice per day.
Lyle was totally impressed by Willis’ research. He immediately drafted a letter to Buffalo Forge Company stating, “The cooling coils which we sold to this company have given excellent results during the past summer.” Willis Carrier had demonstrated his intellectual capacity and creativity to assemble everything to create something entirely new. The chart depicting the flow rate of chilled water and the coil was officially printed on July 17, 1902, and thus modern air conditioning took birth.
From this rich experience, Willis Carrier coined the term- Air Conditioning System as:
“Air Conditioning is the control of the humidity of air by either increasing or decreasing its moisture content. Added to the control of humidity are the control of temperature by either heating or cooling the air, the purification of the air by washing or filtering the air, and the control of air motion and ventilation.”
An Apparatus For Treating Air
After the success of the plant, Willis did not rest and instead began to investigate further to improvise the methodology. One of the engineers from Buffalo Forge Company, I.H Hardeman was a textile engineer. He suggested Willis that his spray conditioner would be of great use in the textile industry, where the control of humidity was more challenging than the spinning factories. Hardeman then sold one of Willis’s spray conditioner to Chronicle Cotton Mills in Belmonte, South Carolina. But the heat load of the equipment was too much for Willis’ device to handle and the machine met with a failure. Willis was quick to note the problem of dehumidifying and the exact value of moisture content needed. He expressed it in his own words:
“Now, if I can saturate air and control its temperature at saturation, I can get air with any amount of moisture I want in it. I can do it, too, by drawing the air through a fine spray of water to create actual fog. By controlling the water temperature I can control the temperature and the saturation. When very moist air is desired, I will heat the water. When dry air is desired, that is, air with a small amount of moisture, I will use cold water to get low temperature saturation. The cold spray water will actually be the condensing surface.”
Willis came to this conclusion while waiting for a train on a fog shrouded railway platform. He noted that fog is nothing but water vapour that has condensed out of air. From his calculations he realized that the amount of water vapour which air contains depends on its temperature. When there is a drop in air’s temperature, the level of water vapour in it also drops. So, if humid air is cooled by spraying cold water, the amount of water vapour it can contain also drops. Gradually, despite the extra water being sprayed through it, the amount of water vapour in the air becomes greater than the maximum level of the water vapour the air can contain. When this happens, water vapour becomes fog or morning dew and the temperature at which this happens is called the “airs dew-point”.
It took Willis some time to put forth his theory into practice. It was only in the year 1904 that the method was formally implemented in a spray washer to his satisfaction. He applied for a patent for the same and received it by early January, 1906. He gave a unique name for the discovery, “Apparatus for Treating Air”.
Apparatus for Treating Air was the first spray-type air conditioning equipment and although it was termed as a revolutionary discovery, there were many questions raised on its credibility. Willis realized that it was necessary to educate the market about the apparatus and hence published information regarding the same in a catalogue named, “Buffalo Air Washer and Humidifier”. As a result, the sales of the equipment began rising and Willis’ reputation in the market soared. The net worth of the company also rose considerably.
Willis also discovered a new theory, “The Law of Constant Dew-Point Depression”. According to the law, the relative humidity of air remains constant as long as the difference between the dry-bulb temperature and the dew-point temperature is constant. In the year 1907, Willis discovered a design of an automatic control system for which he filed a patent claim. Henceforth, he was also recognized as “The Inventor of Dew-Point Control”.
Discovery Of Rational Psychrometric Formulae
As time flew by, Willis began devoting more time in research of various aspects of the psychrometric of evaporation and cooling, and the entire mechanics of an air conditioning system. He prepared a conclusive document, a first of its kind in the field of air conditioning, titled “Rational Psychrometric Formulae”. His theory was finally presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers held on 3rd December, 1911. Willis listed the following principles on which his theory of evaporative method was based on:
Firstly - When air is saturated the temperature is reduced, as the absolute humidity is increased and the decrease of heat is exactly equal to the simultaneous increase in latent heat due to evaporation.
Secondly - As the moisture in the air is increased, the temperature is reduced simultaneously until the vapour pressure corresponds to the temperature, when no further metamorphosis is possible. This ultimate temperature is termed as the temperature of adiabatic saturation.
Thirdly - When an insulated body of water is permitted to evaporate freely in the air, it assumes the temperature of adiabatic saturation of the air and is unaffected by convection, i.e. the true wet-bulb temperature of air is identical with its temperature of adiabatic saturation.
From the above three principles, the fourth principle was determined: The true wet-bulb temperature of the air depends on the total latent heat in the air and is independent of their relative proportions. The wet-bulb temperature is constant, provided the total heat of the air is constant.
Willis’s paper was a landmark in the field of air conditioning and is also called “The Magna Carta of Psychrometrics”. After it was published, the engineers agreed and accepted the theory of “control of air” as a part of their profession. ‘Willis chart’ was introduced in engineering colleges and school textbooks as a part of their syllabus. His formula was translated in different languages worldwide and thus gave wide recognition to Willis Carrier’s scientific invention.
Willis was deeply engrossed in his career and constantly innovating something new. His personal life received a jolt when he lost his wife Edith in the year 1912. However, Willis did not let the personal tragedy affect his career and in the same year he married Jennie Martin.
With the onset of world war in the year 1914, the Buffalo Forge Company decided to stick to the process of manufacturing. But young Willis wanted to expand his horizon and so, he and seven of his colleagues pooled their savings of $32,600 and established “CARRIER ENGINEERING CORPORATION” in New York on June 25, 1915. The seven young engineers who set up the Corporation were Willis Carrier, J.Irvine Lyle, Edward T. Murphy, L.Logan Lewis, Ernest T. Lyle, Frank Sanna, Alfred E. Stacey, Jr. and Edmund P. Heckel.
Brainchild Behind The Centrifugal Machine
With the establishment of Carrier Engineering Corporation, Willis became more passionate about his work and discovered certain inadequacies in the refrigeration machinery which was in use during those times. He eventually introduced a new paper titled “Development Possibilities Of Improvement In Refrigeration” which laid the foundations for a new type of machine. Willis stated:
“The entire system of electric transmission has been developed from nothing to an enormous industry with relatively simple motors that are high-speed rotative equipment. The industry has gone from low-speed reciprocating steam engines to high-speed rotative turbines. Pump machinery is rapidly changing from reciprocating types to high-speed rotative pumps for both liquids and gases. Modern power plants have installed high-speed direct-connected, centrifugal, boiler-feed pumps almost exclusively in replacing the old type of steam-driven reciprocating machines.”
“Refrigeration, though classed among the older mechanical arts, has shown no such material progress. The same improvements that have taken place in electrical transmission and in steam machines and pumps must come in refrigerating machines.”
The paper was the origin of the concept of the centrifugal refrigeration machine. Its main characteristic was the direct drive, suitable for high-speed operations, and heat exchangers that were simple and effective, both performance wise and cost wise.
The new centrifugal machine introduced a new refrigerant- DIELENE, which was non-toxic and had suitable features for advanced mechanical equipment, along with many other new components. The machine was tested several times and gradually installed in Carrier Engineering Corporation in New York, in May 1922. The first centrifugal machine or the ‘chiller’ was actually sold in 1923 to a company named ‘W.F. Schrafft and Sons Candy’ in Boston and the honour of the first installation went to Philadelphia’s candy manufacturer ‘Stephen F. Whitman and Son’.
The sales of the machine increased considerably and no compromise was made in its quality. Willis gave strict instructions to his workforce to test each machine thoroughly. In the process, defects were painstakingly investigated, amended and gradually upgraded. The centrifugal machine was a result of sheer hard work and research by Willis Carrier and his team, and the motive was to produce a perfect working commercial machine. The chiller was extensively used by textile mills, candy factories and pharmaceutical labs.
Thus, Willis Carrier pioneered the first major mechanical refrigeration after David Boyle, who had designed the original ammonia compressor, way back in the year 1872.
Success In Phases
Willis Carrier did not achieve success overnight. It was in phases and each phase was marked by a distinct development. In the year 1923, Willis entered into partnership with three large fan manufacturers and formed the ‘AEROFIN CORPORATION’. Aerofin was involved in the production of lightweight, brass and copper exchangers which provided an alternative to bulky cast-iron heat exchangers. In the subsequent years, Willis installed three, 195-ton centrifugal chillers at J.L. Hudson Company, Detroit’s largest departmental studio. The main motive behind the installation was to encourage shoppers to “shop and still be cool”.
Next, Willis set his eyes on movie theatres. He installed the first air conditioner successfully at ‘Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre’ in Los Angeles, followed by ‘The Palace Theatre’ in Dallas, and ‘Texan’ in Houston. All the three theatres had Willis’ Air Conditioning system including the Centrifugal Chillers. As expected, theatres became the place where people enjoyed watching movies with comfort cooling for the very first time.
In the year 1925, Willis installed an air conditioner in the engine room of a destroyer in the United States Navy. This was indeed a matter of pride for Carrier Engineering Corporation. Skyscrapers were next which caught Willis’ attention and in the year 1926, T.W Patterson Building in California became the first multistory building to install Willis’s air conditioners.
Within a few months Willis installed air conditioners at the National Broadcasting Centre, a 16 floor building in New York City. One success led to another and in the year 1928, The Frost National Bank in San Antonio became the first bank to install Willis’s air conditioners. In the same year, Willis developed ‘The Weathermaker’- the first high efficiency residential air conditioner.
Willis’ air conditioner sales reached to new depths internationally as the company captured American Markets. In the year 1928, Carrier Engineering Corporation was awarded contract to install two 76-ton centrifugal machine in the Morro Velho Gold Mine in Brazil to improve the working condition of the miners. To meet the ever increasing demand for his air conditioners, Willis opened new offices in Sydney, Paris, Bombay, Johannesburg and Stuttgart gradually.
Willis did not aim merely at capturing larger markets and public places for his installations. He was also providing ‘unit air conditioners’ to small retailers and departmental stores. He sold his first unit air conditioner to an egg storage room of the Merchants Refrigerating Company in New York, in the year 1928. In the same year he entered into a partnership deal with J. Irvine Lyle and formed a new subsidiary, the ‘Carrier-Lyle Corporation’. After a few months, Willis and Lyle felt the need to improve the safety standards of their employees working in their plant. Hence, Carrier University was set up in New York with six professors, twenty students and Willis Carrier as the President. Within a year the company initiated a Safety Organization with seven safety inspectors.
As business boomed, Willis bought new property in New York which he named as Lyle plant and which became the base of unit products. His older Carrier plant was the home to company’s research lab. A year later, the company set up its third plant in Pennsylvania. This increased the company’s manufacturing capacity and in one of the meetings the chief noted “From none in 1921 to over five acres in 1929”.
Thus, within a very short span of time Willis’s centrifugal refrigeration had brought the company to movie theatres, banks, shopping malls, offices, mines, broadcast studios and naval ships.
In February 1929, Willis Carrier gave a speech to his work force in which he stated “Twenty five years ago ‘Air Conditioning’ was an unknown quantity either in theory or practice. In years to come the Chief forecast, ‘air conditioning and cooling for summer may become a necessity rather than a luxury’, and we will look upon present times as marking the end of that ‘dark age’ in which there was but relatively little cooling for human comfort”.
Impact Of Great Depression
All was going well in term of sales, and profits soared rapidly. But on October 1929, Black Thursday as it was named, witnessed the total collapse of the stock market and thus began the longest, deepest depression in the world history. Willis, blessed with strong acumen, forecasted that to stay in the market, the company has to remain focused and innovative. Instead of worrying over the problem he decided to study the adverse situation carefully. The economy was undergoing tremendous change and Willis observed that every manufacturer suffering loss began looking to air conditioning as a lucrative field. He once stated “One of the worst features about worrying is that it destroys our ability to concentrate. When we worry, our minds jump here and there and everywhere and we lose all our power of decision. However when we force ourselves to face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all these vague imagining and put ourselves in a position which we are able to concentrate on our problems”.
Willis planned his marketing strategies well and eventually he decided to merge his company with ‘Brunswick Kroeschell Company’, manufacturing small commercial refrigerators, and ‘The York Heating and Ventilating Corporation’, producing unit heaters. Armed with both engineering and manufacturing expertise, the new Carrier Corporation introduced a new slogan, “WEATHERMAKERS TO THE WORLD”.
Soon after the merger, Willis began working on the railroads. He understood that this segment had lot of potential to generate revenues and greater customer satisfaction as he noted “While theatres, departmental stores, restaurants have undoubtedly played an important part, it is believed that the greatest impetus to public acceptance came through the wholesale adoption of air conditioning by the railroads”.
He began his research on a steam ejector that used water as the refrigerant. The first demonstration of cooling a railway passenger car was made in Baltimore in the year 1930. A radio commentator Lowell Thomas reported live, “A most imposing list of railroad executives journeyed over to New York, New Jersey, and there… they stepped into an old obsolete car. Outside it was warm as blazes. Inside the car the temperature was 74, cool and pleasant. And what made it cool? Why, steam! Yes-hot steam! Scalding hot steam! A new steam has been devised for cooling railroad trains”.
This was Willis Carrier, a genius. It was way back in 1903, he discovered that water could be used to dry air and nearly a generation later he realized that steam could be used to cool water.
A very interesting incident which showcases Willis’ financial and marketing strategies was when he approached Cloud Wampler, a banker in Chicago who managed the building which housed one of Willis’s offices. Willis wanted a reduction in rent and one conversation let to another with Wampler later on joining Willis Carrier as his financial advisor. In one of his cost cutting instructions, Willis said “We will not do less research and development work. We will not discharge the people we have trained, and we will work for nothing if we have to”.
A Technical Wizard
Willis did not become an expert on air conditioning system overnight. He would ponder over a technical problem for several years and would never abandon it. If he was unable to find any solution to a technical problem, he would postpone it but never gave up completely. If for some reason he found that his discovery would not be met with commercial success, he would abandon it. He once quoted “I fish only for edible fish, and hunt for edible game - even in the laboratory”.
There is a very interesting incident which depicts the sharp intellectual mind of Willis. Once a chemist explained him the production of ‘Freon-12’ a colourless gas originally called ‘DICHLORODIFLUOROMETHANE’ and according to him there was no way to procure the gas except in the industrial process. Willis was confident that this gas could prove to be an excellent refrigerant for the centrifugal compression. He began pestering the chemist for the formula and eventually succeeded. The data was written in pencil on worksheets and the chemist removed photocopy of the same and supplied it to Willis along with a sample of the fluid. After a lot of research and tests, Willis developed a new type of refrigerant known as Carrene-2, in the year 1930. This refrigerant was far more superior and efficient than the prior systems. The first Carrene-2 refrigerant was installed in the U.S. Court House in the New York City and ran successfully for 16 years without a single call for servicing. Whew! What an achievement...!!!
In the year 1931, Carrier Corporation demonstrated their new invention by introducing the ‘Atmospheric Cabinet’, a room cooler with a fan, cooling coil and filter enclosed in a cabinet, and a refrigerating machine located outside the room.
Throughout the decade, Carrier Corporation’s business grew rapidly. They began to venture in other sectors like large luxury cruise liners, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. They also entered in the medical sector by providing air conditioners to hospitals in Mexico City, Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and to hospitals in other countries, like Cairo in Egypt. With business expanding despite the depression, the company paid equal attention to its business policies and practices. By the end of June 1933, some 30 dealers purchased Carrier’s air conditioners worth $500,000.
On 18th November, 1937, a large crowd of more than 700 people gathered in the Hotel Syracuse ballroom to welcome the city’s newest and most successful industry. Post- merger, Carrier Corporation had emerged as one of the most prominent companies and it was only possible due to the combined efforts of the management and 600 employees of Carrier Corporation.
Introduction Of The Conduit Weather Master System
Willis added another feather to his hat when he invented the “Conduit Weather Master” better known as “Air Handling Unit (AHU)”.
The invention was inspired by the problems posed by skyscrapers i.e. the height and the amount of rooms per floor which in turn affected the outside ventilation (OA).
A standard AHU (conditioning apparatus) is an important element of the air cycle. The basic components of the AHU includes fan motor, cooling coil and modulating face and bypass dampers, mixing boxes with the flow of air in and out of the air openings. This resulted in increased size of each AHU including the OA duct. Willis’ aim was to save space by compact ducts, and the introduction of the Conduit Weather Master was the answer to success.
The OA rooms are large and the room requires the removal of both sensible heat and latent heat. Latent and sensible heat, are types of energy released or absorbed in the atmosphere. Latent heat is related to changes in phase between solids, liquids and gases whereas sensible heat is related to the changes in temperature of a gas or object with no change in phase. Willis decided to cool the entire OA flow and bring it down to the dew-point and that too in the remote OA unit. The result was satisfying as the space required for the OA duct was significantly reduced. The high velocity (20 meters per seconds) Ducting used to carry the OA is the ‘Conduit’ in the Conduit Weather Master.
The company installed its first weather master conduit in the Pentagon and subsequently at the Statler Hotel in Washington D.C. This was the last installation by the company before U.S.A’s entry in the World War II in the year 1939. In the same year, Lyle was elected as the President of the Carrier Corporation. On being elected as the President, Lyle gave a very encouraging speech to his staff wherein he stated “We have been through two drastic depressions. We have emerged and finally digested three Organizations into one. I can honestly say to you that the future looks me to be brighter for this corporation than at any time.”
With the onset of World War II in the year 1939, Willis gave full attention to the war and the U.S Army. He had a burning desire to do something for the military. The military took full advantage of Willis’ engineering skills which involved in producing classified equipments like airplane engine mounts, sight hoods for guns, tank adapters and the “hedgehog”, an anti-submarine bomb discharge. Willis’ contribution to the war included refrigeration that ensured safe delivery and storage of perishable food served to army soldiers located 6000 miles from home.
Many reputed companies in the U.S decided to pledge their air conditioning installation to the war for the production of precision equipment and the control of blast furnaces used in the manufacture of steel. Willis then helped the U.S Navy by providing air conditioning for 11 new vessels and 258 sister ships that followed. With lots of things happening in the international front, Willis’ personal life was too embroiled in tragedy as he lost his second wife, Jennie Martin during the course of war. As the years passed by, the intensity of the war too increased.
On September 11, 1941, The United States of Bureau of Naval Ordnance awarded the Carrier Corporation the Bureau’s flag and the Navy “E” pennant for its distinguished service in the U.S Navy. In the very same year of 1941, Willis married again, this time to Elizabeth Marsh Wise.
In 1942, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics awarded a contract to install an air conditioning system in its wind tunnel at Cleveland, Ohio. It was a daunting task for Willis but he met the challenge with success. In his own words he stated, “This was a project so difficult. The task seemed to be impossible when I first tackled it. And because of its success, high officials in the Air Force told me that World War II was shortened by many months”. Willis Carrier made the impossible possible and the outcome was so brilliant that it is said to have contributed greatly to hastening the end of global hostilities.
Another big achievement was the installation of Willis’s equipment in the Robinson Deep in South Africa, the deepest mine in the world. Willis’s equipment made it possible to increase the mine’s depth from 1,500 feet to a total of 8,500 feet thereby increasing the availability of gold considerably.
With the war tension looming on the US economy, Willis received a big blow when he lost J. Irvine Lyle, President of Carrier Corporation, in the year 1942. Willis recalled him as “my partner and my best friend”. After Lyle’s death, Cloud Wampler was named as the President of the Carrier Corporation. Willis Carrier was 66 now and at an age where many consider it best to retire, Willis was bubbling with energy to fulfill the needs of the military engaged in warfare. The year 1942 also marked the 20th anniversary of Willis Carrier’s invention of the centrifugal chiller which became an important component in the production of war materials.
By the end of 1943, the war was over followed by massive destruction and epidemic. Willis helped in the manufacture of the wonder drug, penicillin which was aimed to conquer malaria. Willis’s equipment was installed in Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio where the wonder drug was being manufactured.
As peace was finally restored, Willis began to promote his Weathermaker line for stores and offices. By 1950, the global market was at its peak as Willis opened new branches in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. He opened a branch in Singapore which served as headquarters for South Asian countries like Mexico, India, Pakistan and Puerto Rico. He constructed Ice-making plants in Greece, France, India, Japan, Portugal, Morocco, Israel and Venezuela.
Around the same year, Willis published a comprehensive catalogue comprising the Magna Carta of air conditioning, the psychrometric chart, the air treatment apparatus, law of constant dew-point depression and principle of the centrifugal machine into a manual named, ‘The Carrier Design Manual’. The manual was a sort of a Bible for the air conditioning engineers. However, the compilation proved to be too strenuous for Willis and he suffered a massive heart attack which forced him to retire from the company.
The Sun Set
Due to his frail health, Willis opted for retirement from his post as Chairman but lived on with his passion for discovering something new. He was physically inactive but mentally he was still very sharp. He would lay horizontal for 20 hours a day on doctor’s advice as his heart was too weak to handle pressures of work. Even though he was on his back he would always have a pad of paper on his knees and his slide rule close at hand to solve complex calculations. He devoted his retirement for spreading the comforts of air conditioning to the rest of the world. However, he was not able to fight back and passed away peacefully on October 9, 1950, just a few days before he could celebrate his 74th birthday. Despite marrying thrice, he did not have children and is said to have adopted two children of his former wife Jeanie Martin. He and his three wives are buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York.
Honours, Tributes And Recognition
Throughout his life Willis’ contribution in the field of engineering was noteworthy. As his fame grew, City Trust Company in Philadelphia awarded him the John Scott medal “For the Invention of Processes and Apparatus for Air Conditioning and Refrigeration”. In 1934, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) awarded Willis Carrier its highest award, the ASME medal. Two years later, the Japanese Association of Refrigeration recognized Willis Carrier on the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the psychometric formula by electing him as an honorary member. He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering Degree from Lehigh University and an honorary Doctor of Science from Alfred University. In 1949, the Newcomen Society of Great Britain honoured him as the Father of Air Conditioning System. Newcomen Society is the world’s oldest society for the study of the history of engineering and technologies. He was the first person to be inducted into the ASHRE Hall of Fame. ASHRE stands for ‘American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers’.
Willis Carrier - A True Genius
What began as a flash of genius in a young engineer’s mind turned into a multibillion dollar industry. Willis Carrier has made it possible to turn commercial air conditioning into residential comforts. The Magna Carta of air conditioning, the psychrometric chart, the air treatment apparatus, law of constant dew-point depression, dew-point control, centrifugal machine are still very much in use today. Carrier was associated with many ‘first’ during the infant stages of air conditioning. Almost all of the concepts were conceived and implemented when Carrier was still young. His contributions to the industry, the way he handled them, his acute foresight and leadership qualities are simply amazing.
He started from a scratch and brought air conditioning from industrial applications into the comfort zone in cinemas, departmental stores, theatres and restaurants. He pioneered air conditioning for railways and passenger liners and introduced unit air conditioning into our homes. Willis Carrier proved that air conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity. Throughout his life, Carrier remained focused and continued to innovate and improve technological solutions to meet human requirements.
Willis Carrier is considered as one of America’s greatest inventor. But unlike the inventions made by Edison, Bell, Wright Brother’s, Carrier’s accomplishments has never been fully recognized. He made indoor sports possible and his invention facilitated the growth of pharmaceutical industries. We have now got used to the comforts of cool air in malls, shops, offices, public transports but the industry continues to improvise and solve complicated problems in much the same way as Willis Carrier did when he introduced his first air conditioning system in 1902.
Officially he is known as the “Weather Maker” to the world but doesn’t it sound more appropriate to nickname him as ‘Dr. Cool’???
Carrier Corporation - Yesterday and Today
The Company marked its presence in the Middle East by installing its systems in Saudi Arabia. In 1946, it received a major order from a company named ARAMCO in Tehran. Other projects include air conditioning of the Conference Palace in Riyadh and the King’s Palace in Dammam.
By the end of 1951, the air conditioning industry became a billion dollar sector and Carrier’s air conditioners were installed in thousands of factories, supermarkets, offices, theatres, hospitals, hotels, skyscrapers and mines. Carrier Corporation sales gained international momentum when Toyo Engineering Company of Japan ordered Carrier’s air conditioners for its offices, textile plants and merchant ships. Carrier Corporation was responsible for the installation of the centrifugal cooling at the Laboratory Palma in Rome to promote the production of penicillin. In the year 1955, Carrier Corporation successfully completed air conditioning the textile mill in the Philippines.
The growth in the international market was much more than the U.S residential market where the sales of room air conditioners jumped to more than 1 million units in 1953. Carrier Corporation made a good business move by merging with Affiliated Gas Equipment in March 1955. The company gained momentum overnight and crossed $200 million business with broadest heating and cooling product in the market. In the next year, Carrier Corporation was awarded the largest contract ever for residential air conditioning in Levittown Pennsylvania.
Carrier’s machines were crossing international borders and the Company mentioned it in one of their manuals “from Bombay to Buenos Aires – from Stockholm to Singapore”. By the end of 1956, Carrier Corporation got wide coverage in the media as well as top magazines- The Saturday Evening Post, Times Newsweek, Better Homes and Gardens and advertising agencies came up with slogans like “It is time to call Carrier for better appetites, better sleeping, happier home life and less hay fever”.
In 1969, Carrier Corporation was responsible for installing air conditioning equipment in the offices of the twin 110-story towers of New York’s World Trade Centre. The company’s revenue rose to $594 million in 1970. The Company also won a contract to air condition Sears Town in Chicago, the world’s tallest tower in 1974. By 1978, Carrier Corporation had made lion’s share by accounting for more than 25% of the corporate sales of air conditioning systems.
During the 80’s and the early 90’s, the Company expanded globally. From core business it moved on to energy controls and services. It became a part of UTC Climate, Controls and Security, a unit of United Technologies in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A. In 1993, Carrier Corporation played pivotal role in launching the U.S. Green Building Council. The Company established strong distribution network capturing East and Latin America. By 1994, it captured the markets of China as Carrier Corporation signed agreements to form seven joint ventures in this huge, emerging economy. Carrier became the first HVAC manufacturer to gain entry into the ‘Climate Leaders Program’ by the Environmental Agency in 2003. Within a decade, the Carrier’s system was successfully installed in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and in 2005 the Hall of Treasures and Hall of Clocks at the Beijing Palace Museum. It was selected to air condition the 2008 Beijing Games.
In 1996, Carrier Corporation was awarded contract to air condition the new Sahara International Airport in Mumbai, India. In the same year the Company launched the Evergreen Chillers as a part of their program to commit to environmental standard. In the year 1998, the Company launched its new refrigerant brand called ‘Puron’. In the year 2006, the Company was awarded to air condition the HyperCity Super Market in Mumbai followed by Delhi International Airport in 2008. It was soon followed by cooling apartments that housed sportsmen participating in the Commonwealth Games. In the same year, ITC hotel Royal Gardenia in Bengaluru (Bangalore) was awarded as Asia’s first world’s largest Leadership in Energy and Environment (LEED) Platinum-rated ‘green’ hotel for installing Carrier’s systems.
In the year 2009, Carrier Corporation was invited to be a founder member of the Singapore Green Building Council and in the next year it financed more than $1.5 million to establish the ‘Willis H. Carrier Total Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory, a 10,000 sq. foot structure in the Syracuse Centre of excellence in environment and energy system to promote research in human factors and performance in building environment.