John Gorrie

Dr. John Gorrie A statue of Dr. John Gorrie from the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Inventor John Gorrie was born to Scottish parents on the Island of Nevis and spent most of his childhood in South Carolina.

Like William Cullen, Gorrie had a dual passion for science and medicine. He’d received his medical education from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York. Most of his medical career centered on the study and treatment of tropical diseases, such as malaria. It was his belief that cold was the key to the cure.

John Gorrie's Ice Machine A schematic of Gorrie's ice machine design.

This lead to Gorrie’s transition from medicine into the science of refrigeration. He sought ways to keep the rooms of ailing patients cool, to which he also pioneered the technology for air conditioning. Gorrie submitted the patent for the first ice machine in 1848, which was built months later. When trying to seek financial support for the production of his machine, Gorrie met with frustrating opposition. Reliability of the machine was hindered by leaks and irregular performance. Investors were also discouraged from supporting the device by lobbyists of the established ice industry, which brought and sold ice from the mountains.

While he never profited from his patented ice machine, he guaranteed his place in history for setting in motion the development for both refrigeration and air conditioning technology. The John Gorrie Museum is located in Apalachicola, Florida and every year the University of Florida College of Medicine issues the John Gorrie Award to students showing great potential in the medical field.