John Gorrie

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For other people named John Gorrie, see John Gorrie (disambiguation).
NSHC statue of John Gorrie

John Gorrie (October 3, 1803 – June 29, 1855) was a physician, scientist, inventor, and humanitarian.

Born on the Island of Nevis to Scottish parents on October 3, 1803, he spent his childhood in South Carolina. He received his medical education at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York in Fairfield, New York. In 1833, he moved to Apalachicola, Florida, a port city on the Gulf coast. As well as being resident physician at two hospitals, Gorrie was active in the community. At various times he served as a council member, Postmaster, President of the Bank of Pensacola's Apalachicola Branch, Secretary of the Masonic Lodge, and was one of the founding vestrymen of Trinity Episcopal Church.

Gorrie Monument in Apalachicola, Florida.

Dr. Gorrie's medical research involved the study of tropical diseases. At the time the theory that bad air caused diseases was a prevalent hypothesis and based on this theory, he urged draining the swamps and the cooling of sickrooms.[1] For this he cooled rooms with ice in a basin suspended from the ceiling. Cool air, being heavier, flowed down across the patient and through an opening near the floor.

Experiments with artificial cooling[edit]

Since it was necessary to transport ice by boat from the northern lakes, Gorrie experimented with making artificial ice.[citation needed]

After 1845, he gave up his medical practice to pursue refrigeration projects. On May 6, 1851, Gorrie was granted Patent No. 8080 for a machine to make ice.[2] The original model of this machine and the scientific articles he wrote are at the Smithsonian Institution. Impoverished, Gorrie sought to raise money to manufacture his machine, but the venture failed when his partner died. Humiliated by criticism, financially ruined, and his health broken, Gorrie died in seclusion on June 29, 1855. He is buried in Gorrie Square in Apalachicola.[citation needed]

Another version of Gorrie’s “cooling system”[citation needed] was used when President James A. Garfield was dying in 1881. Naval engineers built a box filled with cloths that had been soaked in melted ice water. Then by allowing hot air to blow on the cloths it decreased the room temperature by 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem with this method was essentially the same problem Gorrie had. It required an enormous amount of ice to keep the room cooled continuously. Yet it was an important event in the history of air conditioning. It proved that Dr. Gorrie had the right idea, but unfortunately was unable to capitalize on it.[citation needed]

Dr. Gorrie died impoverished in 1855[citation needed] and the idea of air conditioning faded away for 50 years.

Monuments and memorials[edit]

Schematic of Gorrie's ice machine.

References[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Raymond B. Becker. John Gorrie, M.D.: Father of Air Conditioning and Mechanical Refrigeration, Carlton Press, 1972.
  • John Gladstone. John Gorrie, the Visionary, ASHRAE Journal, December 1998. PDF file
  • V. M. Sherlock. The Fever Man: a Biography of Dr. John Gorrie, Medallion Press: 1982.
  • Elli Morris, "Cooling the South: The Block Ice Era, 1875-1975", Wackophoto, 2008. [1]

External links[edit]