The genesis of this particular column started on the floor of the recent Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition in Anaheim, Calif. One of the attendees recalled seeing something that seemed to point to 2004 as the 100th anniversary of a significant event in the history of refrigeration.

The overload of information at the show caused the attendee - and well as many others, I'm sure - to not be able to peg exactly the context of that remembrance, so he asked me if I could help. But I, too, had reached information saturation.

A totally unrelated phone call to association journalist Fred Turner a few days after the expo yielded the answer. It seems he had written a column recognizing the 1904 founding of the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE), one of the two predecessors that became today's American Society of Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigerating Engineers (ASHRAE). That is what the attendee had looked at during the expo and that is certainly a significant event.

The exercise in pegging an important refrigeration event that took place in 1904 caused me to then wonder - if 1904 was not the very beginning of refrigeration, when was it?

I suppose at this point, it is important to narrow the project a bit by focusing on mechanical refrigeration rather than just refrigeration. After all, industry historian Henry Ehrens, who writes from time to time for The News, noted that "as far back as 100,000 B.C., man recognized the fact that cool temperatures preserved perishables." He also pointed out that as early as 10,000 B.C., ice was harvested in the northern countries from lakes and rivers during the winter season and stored for use in the warmer months.

He went on to note the invention of the domestic icebox in 1803, but that version just had an ice compartment that had to be re-filled with ice every few days.

Turner noted that "Charles Tellier's vapor-compression machine, which kept meat fresh for the three-month voyage of the La Frigorifique in 1876, had demonstrated the potential for mechanical refrigeration." That may be the starting point.

I don't have a particular year or development in mind that denotes the dawn of mechanical refrigeration. In fact, I'm asking readers for suggestions. It could well be that there is a consensus, but given the fact that the refrigeration industry has grown thanks to achievements throughout its history, pegging a certain date and event may be a bit of a challenge.

Feel free to offer your ideas to the e-mail address at the end of this column. We will be publishing some of those thoughts in the months ahead.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or

Publication date: 04/05/2004