Monday, September 19, 2005

Air conditioning and geography

Air conditioned
Originally uploaded by His Noodly Appendage.
Sept 19
"Without air conditioning the city of Houston, our 4th largest city, would not exist." That's a famous, if apocryphal, quote.

About the background of air conditioning:

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used wet mats to cool indoor air. They hung the mats over the doors to their tents and other dwellings. When wind blew through the mats, evaporation of the water cooled the air. The people of India later used this method to cool the royal palaces. About 1500, Leonardo da Vinci, the great Italian artist and scientist, built the first mechanical fan to provide ventilation. Water power turned the fan. In 1553, the English developed a rotary fan to ventilate mines.
- World Book 05

Modern A/C history begins with Cornell U. engineer Willis Carrier. About 1902 he developed the electrical A/C that we now take for granted. For more on Carrier, please see

Charles Panati also points out in his best-selling Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things that the Egyptians used the arid climate of their nation in cooling. They placed a clay tray of water on a bed of straw at nightfall. In the morning the water was icy from the cooling effect of evaporation, says Panati.


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