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Fascinating facts about Willis Haviland Carrier
inventor of the air conditioner in 1902.

Willis Haviland Carrier
One year after earning a master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University in 1901, Willis Haviland Carrier developed and patented the world's first modern air conditioner. Carrier's invention not only provided comfort at home, but also allowed for the controlled conditions necessary in many environments: industrial and scientific.
Inventor: Willis Haviland Carrier
Willis Carrier photo courtesy Carrier Corporation
Criteria; First to patent. Modern prototype. Entrepreneur.
Birth: November 26, 1876 in Angola, New York.
Death: October 9, 1950
Nationality: American
Invention: Air Conditioner
Air Conditioner photo courtesy Carrier Corporation
Function: noun / air-con·di·tion-er
Definition: An apparatus for washing air and controlling its humidity and temperature. A system that keeps air cool and dry. Used to enhance comfort as well as improve industrial processes and products.
Patent: 808,897 (US) issued January 2, 1906

CAPS: Carrier, Willis Haviland Carrier, ARY,air conditioner,  air-condition, air conditioning, SIPS, history, biography, inventor, invention.
The Story:
Willis Haviland Carrier did pretty well for a boy who had to slice a peck of apples into halves, quarters and eighths to grasp the notion of fractions.

Raised on a farm near the snowy eastern shore of Lake Erie in Angola, New York, the young Carrier grew up as an only child in an extended family of adults including his grandparents and great aunt. Some described him as a solitary youth who entertained himself playing games of his own invention. In his adult years, legends grew around him as a problem-solving genius who sometimes noodled solutions for a year or two. Perhaps that skill was an outgrowth of his difficulty with fractions. "My mother told me to bring up a pan of apples from the cellar," Carrier said. "She had me cut them into halves, quarters and eighths and add and subtract the parts. Fractions took on a new meaning and I felt as if no problems would be too hard for me - I'd simply break them down to something simple and they would be easy to solve."

Carrier entered Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. on a four-year scholarship, but he was forced to earn room and board money by mowing lawns, stoking furnaces, and, during his senior year, forming a co-op student laundry.

With a degree in mechanical engineering, he found a job at the Buffalo Forge Company in June, 1901 and began designing heating systems to dry lumber and coffee. Carrier realized the data available to him or any engineer wasn't sufficient to design soundly engineered systems.

He started his own research program to determine how much heat air would hold as it was blown across steam-heated pipes. For the first time, the company's engineers could accurately estimate how much heater surface area was needed to heat a given space. In one heating system alone, the tables Carrier developed, saved the company $40,000 that had been spent previously in correcting poorly designed installations.

Carrier, barely a year out of college, was made head of the company's department of experimental engineering. It was here that he solved his first problem in temperature and humidity control for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn.

Even though he was still 13 years away from forming his own air conditioning company, Carrier exhibited the kind of focused reliance on hard data, combined with a lively vision and imagination, that would power an industry. He was a dreamer, but he based his dreams on reality. "I fish only for edible fish, and hunt only for edible game - even in the laboratory."

The Centennial of the day that a gifted young engineer named Willis H. Carrier invented modern air conditioning. His invention – encompassing the first system to provide man-made control over temperature, humidity, ventilation and air quality – was first installed as a solution to the quality problems experienced at a Brooklyn printing plant, Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. It not only spawned a company and an industry, but also brought about profound economic, social and cultural changes.


The Entrepreneur    from The Great Idea Finder
Carrier, A Century of Innovation  from The Great Idea Finder 

1000 Inventions & Discoveries
by Roger Bridgman / Hardcover: 256 pages / Dorling Kindersley Publishing; (2002)
Fascinating stories and vivid photographs and illustrations tell the tales of the developments in technology and natural science that have shaped our world. Profiles of the famous (and not-so-famous) men and women who have had "Eureka!" moments, a running timeline which puts the inventions and discoveries in historical context
Great Inventions: Geniuses, Gadgets and Gizmos: Innovations in Our Time
by Editors of Time Magazine / Hardcover: 176 pages / Time (October 1, 2003)
The editors of TIME tell the fascinating stories behind the most important innovations of the past 100 years, from computers, space shuttles, and cell phones, to zippers, Teflon and the Internet.

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs
Willis Haviland Carrier Father of Air Conditioning  (Limited Availability)
by Margaret Ingels / Hardcover: 170 pages / Ayer Co Pub; Reprint edition (December 1, 1972)


Carrier Corporation
Carrier's early work in developing centrifugal refrigeration machines led to new safe refrigerants for which he also received several patents. By controlling humidity as well as temperature, he invented air conditioning as we know it today. Carrier and several other engineers formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation in 1915 with capital of $35,000.
History of Buffalo
As a young boy, Willis was recognized as inventive and studious. After chores on the farm, he often burned the midnight oil on self-invented problems. One friend remembers Willis working on geometry problems outside, during a snowstorm, unmindful of the weather around him.
Carrier History
The history of air conditioning is a history of Carrier, and there's more behind the comfort we take for granted on a sweltering summer day than you might think.
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
Cold Comfort
It took half a century for air conditioning to become accepted and decades more for it to become universal. Article by T. A. Heppenheimer for Invention & Technology magazine.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds. Patent Number 808,897
Time 100 - Willis Carrier
So it was the humidity! How a kindly engineer from the Snowbelt made the Sunbelt boom.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Willis Haviland Carrier really perfected the art of precision cooling.
Article By Bernard Nagengast for ME magazine.
United Technologies Corporation
United Technologies Corporation (UTC) is a diversified company whose products include Carrier heating and air conditioning, Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace systems and industrial products, Otis elevators and escalators, Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Sikorsky helicopters, UTC Fire & Security systems and UTC Power fuel cells.

"Time spent staring into space while thinking is not time wasted. " - Willis Carrier


  • Some of his early installations include the Madison Square Garden, the U.S. House and Senate Chambers and the White House.
  • He would install the world's first residential air conditioning system in a home in Minneapolis, Minn. (I do not know why.)
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised July 28, 2006.

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