While the question of who invented air conditioning isn’t clear, there are many forms of cooling that have been attempted over the years. Many of the earliest forms of air conditioning may more accurately be called early forms of evaporative cooling, also known as swamp cooling. In the desert, this type of cooling is especially effective, as there is not a lot of humidity in the air.
Evaporative cooling may well have been invented by the Romans who used their aqueduct technology to circulate cool water through the walls of their homes. In the 3rd century, Emperor Elagabalus had snow imported to Rome and dumped in the garden next to his villa during the summer as a way to keep cool. Not only was this inefficient, some thought it very un-Roman to not just bear the heat for a few months.
Modern fans blowing through iced cold wet sheets provided evaporative cooling to many who had previously suffered through the heat of the summer, including President James Garfield. Air conditioning remained an amenity for the rich until the 1800s brought it to the middle class.
Who invented air conditioning?
Most often it is credited to Willis Carrier who, in 1902, invented what is known as the first modern air conditioner in Brooklyn, NY. It was created for a publishing company to keep humidity low so the paper didn’t expand and contract. It was never intended to be used solely for comfort, as we use air conditioning today.
In 1925, Willis Carrier introduced a revised version of his original invention to the public at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square, New York City. People piled in to cool movie theaters for years for relief from the heat. Little did Carrier know the role he played in creating the summer blockbuster movies we know today!
The next time you are too cold in the summer, give a thank you to Willis Carrier, the inventor of the modern air conditioner.