February 9, 2007

Carrier

And the man behind the brand is...
Willis Carrier

Willis H. Carrier grew up on a farm in Angola, New York, a boy of mechanical bent. He graduated from Angola Academy in 1894 but lacked the money and entrance requirements to pursue an advanced education at nearby Cornell University. He continued studying however and in 1896 he won a scholarship contest that paid for Cornell tuition.

Carrier was still only halfway home to his dream. He now borrowed money for a tutoring school to prepare for competition exams to win a university scholarship for board, room, and books. Carrier won the necessary extra money but his years studying electrical engineering in Ithaca were fraught with money worries.

After graduation in 1901 Carrier began work with Buffalo Forge, earning $10 a week working with fans, heaters, and temperature control. He studied water content in the air and devised a system for dehumidifying the air using an ammonia compressor. On a foggy day in Pittsburgh, where he waited on a railway platform on his way to a business appointment, Carrier conceived the methods of affecting air temperature by changing its moisture content. His idea of "dewpoint control" became the basis for the air conditioning industry.

In 1904 Carrier was ready to patent his process. His "Apparatus For Treating Air", a method of dehumidifying air by adding water, was such an advanced concept that his first few sales were not for temperature reduction but for cleaning air in ventilating systems. Meanwhile Carrier was promoted to the head of engineering and research at Buffalo Forge at the age of 29.

Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America, owned by Buffalo Forge, was established in 1907 with J. Irvine Lyle as sales manager. Lyle introduced cooling systems into industry after industry. By 1914 Carrier had installed over 300 air conditioning systems in factories across the country. But with the advent of World War I Buffalo Forge decided to confine its operations to traditional manufacturing activities. Carrier Air Conditioning was shut down.

On June 26, 1915 Carrier and Lyle and five other young engineers formed the Carrier Engineering Company. Despite limited capital the new firm closed more than 40 contracts in the last six months of the year. Willis Carrier was kept busy in the field selling, advising, and supervising. He had time to file only two patents in 1915, his smallest output in years.

To grow Carrier needed to find a simple refrigerating system to run warm water through a pipe and turn it cold. By 1923 he introduced centrifugal refrigerating machines to do just that. Comfort air conditioning was at hand. Carrier's first installation of the new process was in Hudson's Department store in Detroit but his big breakthrough in comfort advertising came in movie theaters. Successful air conditioning systems were installed in Texas and spread to Broadway. No longer did entertainment emporiums had to shut down on excessively hot days.

Carrier continued to improve the efficiency of his air conditioning systems.
In 1928 he introduced the residential "Weathermaker" and sold his first individual units to small retailers. In 1930, after many aborted tries, Carrier began air conditioning railroad cars. In 1932 Carrier introduced The Atmospheric Cabinet, the world's first room air conditioner and finally in 1939 Willis Carrier cooled the last remaining hot spot in America - the skyscraper.

America's massive military output in World War II was made possible in part by Carrier Air Conditioning. Irvine Lyle died in 1942 at the age of 68 while Willis Carrier devoted himself to what he later referred to as his greatest engineering achievement - a wind tunnel simulating freezing high altitude conditions to test prototype planes.

After the war Carrier suffered a heart ailment that left him bedridden.
He remained as Chairman Emeritus and a constant consultant to Carrier
engineers until his death in 1950 at the age of 74.

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