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The Inventors Of The Refrigerator

John Gorrie's Ice Machine John Gorrie's ice making machine design.

The refrigerator may appear to be a simple device to us now, but it didn’t come together all at once. Over 150 years of refrigeration designs would come and go before refrigerators would begin to resemble how we see them today.

The first person credited with demonstrating artificial refrigeration was Dr. William Cullen in 1748. While most of his career was in medicine, he did study and teach chemistry. Cullen’s designed used a partial vacuum to boil diethyl ether, the gas of which would absorb the surrounding heat. His demonstration of the design produced small amounts of ice, but had no practical use at the time.

Over 50 years later, inventor Oliver Evans designed the first refrigeration machine, using vapor instead of liquid. He’s most often credited for inventing the refrigerator, though he’d never actually built any of his designs.

Also in the 19th century, Dr. John Gorrie invented the first ever ice making machine. His original intent was to use refrigeration and air conditioning technology to help treat airborne illnesses such as malaria. While his work was highly-criticized throughout his living years, Dr. Gorrie has since earned enough recognition today to inspire the John Gorrie Museum in Florida and have the original model of his machine featured in the Smithsonian Institute.

Albert Einstein Theoretical physycist, Albert Einstein.

Swedish inventors Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters teamed up in the early 1920s to design a simple refrigerator, based on the principles of absorption refrigeration. It had no moving parts and used no electricity to run. All it needed to run was a heat source, as simple as a small gas burner.

Albert Einstein himself even had a refrigerator design; a variation of the one developed by Planten and Munters. He collaborated with a student of his, Leó Szilárd, to improve upon refrigeration technology of the day because of their potential leaks of toxic gasses. It was simply named "Einstein’s Refrigerator". Before they had come up with their final design, refrigerators using the non-toxic gas, Freon, had already become the keystone for refrigeration standards.