Following graduation from the University of Michigan in 1933 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Mr. Bottum was hired by Kelvinator Corp. in the inspection department. From 1935 to 1938 he worked in the Kelvinator Commercial Engineering Lab. He then joined Copeland Corp. and was placed in charge of the engineering lab, during which time the first Copelametic compressors were developed.
In 1941, he joined Skuttle Manufacturing Co. as vice president and chief engineer involved in the development of humidifiers, air movers, and ventilators.
He founded Refrigeration Research in Detroit in 1944 as a family business that “has been able to continue the same policies that have resulted in innovative products of value to the industry,” according to a statement from the company.
The company makes component refrigeration parts — both catalog and made to order — for about 200 manufacturers and several hundred wholesalers. The company has production facilities in three states.
Innovations include wire cloth bag-type accumulator driers, a complete line of mufflers, “Leek Pruf” fusible plugs, a complete line of suction accumulators, and a no-frost, non-drip heat exchanger suction accumulator.
Solar tests were made in the Brighton labs and Mr. Bottum joined the Society for Applied Solar Energy, which has since become the International Solar Energy Society.
Solar Research was one of the first to recognize the close relationship between the refrigeration industry and solar energy. It soon led the way by introducing the phase change solar system in the mid-1970s.
The Solar Research Division did not fold with the phaseout of the tax credits for such research. It stayed in business, continued to offer new developments in solar technology, and has produced a solar catalog every year since 1975.
Mr. Bottum’s experiments in solar technology included a way to melt ice on the sidewalks at the Refrigeration Research offices and a solar heated doghouse on the site.
The purpose, he said, was “to permanently preserve historic refrigeration and air conditioning items such as equipment, systems, components, technical information, books, catalogs, papers, and profiles in order to trace, as accurately as possible, development of refrigeration and air conditioning from the beginning.”
In 2000, ASME International designated the museum a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Collection.
In recent years he spent considerable time traveling and speaking at schools, colleges, and solar groups. Among organizations he has worked with include Oakridge National Lab, Ferris State University, and Texas State Technical Institute among many others.
Publication date: 12/3/2001