SYRACUSE, NY — With the hot July temperatures that are roasting the United States from coast to coast, Americans can be thankful that 100 years ago Dr. Willis H. Carrier invented modern air conditioning.

On July 17, 1902, the young engineer’s invention — encompassing the first system to provide man-made control over temperature, humidity, ventilation, and air quality — was first designed as a solution to quality problems experienced at a Brooklyn printing plant, Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. It not only spawned a new company — Carrier Corporation —and a new industry, but also helped bring about significant economic, social, and cultural changes.

By the end of the 20th century, 80% of U.S. homes were air conditioned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps the most dramatic impact of air conditioning has been the population growth in areas with climates previously thought to be “inhospitable,” such as many major cities across the South. Some even credit Dr. Carrier for aiding in the rise of the New South and the Sun Belt.

And a number of today’s everyday products, from candy to pharmaceuticals to microprocessor chips, owe their existence and have been produced better or cheaper because of air conditioning.

Carrier Corporation is heralding the 100th anniversary with a celebration designed to bring more widespread recognition to its founder. “Despite the immense impact of air conditioning on humankind, Willis Carrier is still surprisingly unknown,” said Geraud Darnis, president of the company. “We think he should rightfully be viewed by historians and the public as one of the world’s greatest inventors.”

To honor its founder, Carrier Corporation has announced that it is partnering with the New York City Board of Education to establish The Willis H. Carrier Academy at Brooklyn's W.E. Grady Technical High School. The academy offers students a three-year program in HVACR, and serves as a model initiative, in line with the Board of Education’s commitment to improve instruction within the city’s 18 career and technical education high schools.

Publication date: 07/15/2002