Person: Willis Carrier

While he doesn't typically get recognized in the pantheon of great American inventors, Willis Carrier's invention of air conditioning has increased productivity, allowed the growth of the Sunbelt, and saved the lives of thousands with respiratory problems. Uploaded by

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Willis who?” When the roll of great American inventors is called, you usually hear the names of Edison (Great American Things, Mar. 25, 2010), the Wright Brothers (Great American Things, Sept. 13, 2009), and maybe Alexander Graham Bell. Let’s here and now make sure to include Willis Carrier, inventor of air conditioning. As we say in the South, Bless his heart.

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Carrier, a mechanical engineer first submitted theoretical drawings for a/c in 1902. He received his first patent in 1906, and his systems were in use in factories and some residences by the 1920s. The Depression and World War II slowed the demand for the product, but the 1950s saw a huge growth in demand.

Now, think of the great things that air conditioning made possible. Its use in factories caused productivity to increase dramatically during summer months. The massive migration to the Sunbelt states wouldn’t have occurred without a/c. Thousands of lives have been saved, people who suffer from respiratory problems that air conditioning relieves. And, doggone it, it’s simply made life more livable for everyone. You don’t get enough credit, Mr. Carrier. But we salute you and recognize your accomplishments as one of the truly Great American Things.


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