Galleries XX Century

A Look at the Past: The History of Refrigerators


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While nearly every household has a refrigerator in the kitchen, it’s hard to believe that the way this major home appliance keeps groceries cool is considerably new. It’s even hard to say who first invented the refrigeration concept.  People first started freezing water in 1,000 BC, including the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews, where they used snow to keep foods cold. Obviously, the concept of food storage is still present today, but not so much.

Photo: tasteofhome.com

The history of the refrigerator began with the invention of the small refrigerator by William Cullen in the 18th century. He demonstrated that rapid fluid heating to gas can lead to refrigeration. This is the fundamental theory of refrigeration that persists today. Cullen never implemented his idea, but others were motivated to attempt to realize his principle.

In the early 19th century, Jacob Perkins developed the first system of vapor compression cooling globally. However, the first useful refrigeration system was created by James Harrison, where he used ammonia or alcohol along with a vapor compression system. Harrison also developed a mechanical ice cream maker. He introduced an industrial vapor-cooling system to meat packing companies, breweries, and other businesses.

The first gas absorption cooling system was invented by Ferdinand Carre by combining ammonia and aqua ammonia. Carl von Linde, a German engineering professor, subsequently used an advanced liquefying process. This enhanced method used ammonia as refrigerants and was widely used for cooling systems until the late 20th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Fred W. Wold invented a domestic cooling system, which included the refrigerator on the top of the ice container. Nathaniel B. Wales introduced a concept of a functional electric cooling system in 1914. Four years later, Alfred Mellowes developed a self-contained refrigerator that had a compressor at the base of the device. This concept was bought by William C. Durant to establish the Frigidaire company.

Frigidaire was the first company to manufacture refrigerators and is probably still the world’s most notable refrigerator company. However, Kelvinator was the first company to implement all forms of automation systems and dominated nearly 80% of the global market in the second decade of the 19th century.

In the 1920s, Freon was launched and thus widening the demand for the refrigerator. In comparison to the previous models, Freon was widely known as the safest version of the cooling system. During the 1940s, freezers were introduced, and since then, frozen foods became generic food products in our lives. In 1994, Freon was no longer in use after researchers found out that this gas can damage the ozone layer. Today, many refrigerator companies use tetrafluoroethane as a less hazardous substitute for Freon.

Photo: kawaaibuaya.web.app

Throughout the years, a lot of companies manufacture a wide array of refrigerator models with more advanced technology. It has become something modern people cannot live without and a fundamental necessity.  That is why refrigeration companies launch more and more advanced and beneficial features and are constantly added to their devices, just as we have seen in our history.


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