Frederick McKinley Jones
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Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17, 1893 – February 21, 1961) was an African-American inventor, entrepreneur, winner of the National Medal of Technology, and inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His innovations in refrigeration brought great improvement to the long-haul transportation of perishable goods.
Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 17, 1893 He was orphaned at the age of nine. He was then raised by a priest in Kentucky. Jones left school after grade six and left the rectory to return to Cincinnati at age eleven, where he got a job first as a cleaning boy and by age fourteen he was working as an automobile mechanic. He boosted his natural mechanical ability and inventive mind with independent reading and study. In 1912, Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota, where he worked as a mechanic on a 50,000-acre (200 km2) farm. After service with the U.S. Army in World War I, Jones returned to Hallock; while employed as a mechanic, Jones taught himself electronics and built a transmitter for the town's new radio station. He also invented a device to combine sound with motion pictures. This attracted the attention of Joseph A. Numero of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who hired Jones in 1930 to improve the sound equipment made by his firm, Cinema Supplies Inc.
Around 1935, Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food, and received a patent for it on July 12, 1940. Numero sold his movie sound equipment business to RCA and formed a new company in partnership with Jones, the U.S. Thermo Control Company (later the Thermo King Corporation) which became a $3 million business by 1949. Portable cooling units designed by Jones were especially important during World War II, preserving blood, medicine, and food for use at army hospitals and on open battlefields.
Distinctions and honors
During his life, Jones was awarded 61 patents. Forty were for refrigeration equipment, while others went for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines. In 1944, Jones became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers, and during the 1950s he was a maco to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bureau of Standards. In 1991, The National Medal of Technology was awarded to Joseph A. Numero and Frederick M. Jones. President George Bush presented the awards posthumously to their widows at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Jones was the first African American to receive the award. He died of lung cancer in Minneapolis in 1961. He was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1977.
- U.S. Patent 2,163,754 was issued on June 27, 1943 – Ticket dispensing machine.
- 132182 U.S. Patent D 132,182 was issued on April 28, 1943 – Design for air conditioning unit.
- U.S. Patent 2,336,735 was issued on December 14, 1943 – Removable cooling units for compartments.
- U.S. Patent 2,337,164 was issued on December 21, 1943 – Means for automatically stopping and starting gas engines.
- U.S. Patent 2,376,968 was issued on May 29, 1945 – Two-cycle gas engine.
- U.S. Patent 2,417,253 was issued on March 11, 1947 – Two-cycle gas engine.
- U.S. Patent 2,475,841 was issued on July 12, 1949 – Automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks.
- U.S. Patent 2,475,842 was issued on July 12, 1949 – Starter generator.
- U.S. Patent 2,475,843 was issued on July 12, 1949 – Means operated by a starter generator for cooling a gas engine.
- U.S. Patent 2,477,377 was issued on July 26, 1949 – Means for thermostatically operating gas engines.
- U.S. Patent 2,504,841 was issued on April 18, 1950 – Rotary compressor.
- U.S. Patent 2,509,099 was issued on May 23, 1950 – System for controlling operation of refrigeration units.
- 159209 U.S. Patent D 159,209 was issued on July 4, 1950 – Design for air conditioning unit.
- U.S. Patent 2,523,273 was issued on September 26, 1950 – Engine actuated ventilating system.
- U.S. Patent 2,526,874 was issued on October 24, 1950 – Apparatus for heating or cooling atmosphere within an enclosure.
- U.S. Patent 2,535,682 was issued on December 26, 1950 – Prefabricated refrigerator construction.
- U.S. Patent 2,581,956 was issued on January 8, 1952 – Refrigeration control device.
- U.S. Patent 2,666,298 was issued on January 19, 1954 – Methods and means of defrosting a cold diffuser.
- U.S. Patent 2,696,086 was issued on December 7, 1954 – Method and means for air conditioning.
- U.S. Patent 2,780,923 was issued on February 12, 1957 – Method and means for preserving perishable foodstuffs in transit.
- U.S. Patent 2,850,001 was issued on September 2, 1958 – Control device for internal combustion engine.
- U.S. Patent 2,926,005 was issued on February 23, 1960 – Thermostat and temperature control system.
- "July 12: Frederick M. Jones Patents Refrigeration System", Rebecca Goodman and Barrett J. Brunsman, This Day in Ohio History (Emmis Books, 2005) p. 214.