How Was the Refrigerator Invented?


Before the invention of the refrigerator, people used ice houses, holes in the ground covered with snow and chilly weather to cool and prevent spoilage, mold and bacteria in food. During hundreds of years, a series of inventions eventually led to the modern-day refrigerator. While many innovative people are responsible for constructing this No. 1 kitchen necessity, Carl von Linde is the most significant.

Early Inventors

  • Several men contributed to the invention of the refrigerator before von Linde's work. During the 11th century, Persian physicist Ibn Sina created a key piece: a refrigerated coil. In 1748, William Cullen created the first refrigeration machine to be included in history books. Oliver Evans changed the technology of the refrigerator from liquid to vapor in 1805. Evans' technology also paved the way for indoor air conditioning. In 1834, Jacob Perkins invented a cooling compression system, making the indoor refrigerator possible.

Carl von Linde

  • It was von Linde, however, who played the largest role in the creation of the modern-day refrigerator. In 1876, he invented a process of liquefying gases, which formed the technology used in the modern refrigerator. He also created the first portable compressor refrigeration machine. In his first models, Linde used methyl ether, but he later switched to an ammonia cycle. In 1878, he started Linde AG, which at the time he called Linde's Eismaschinen AG. Linde went on to improve his refrigerators and created the Linde Technique, which creates a liquefaction of large volumes of air.

21st Century Refrigerators

  • By 1920, more than 200 refrigerator models were on the market. In 1923, Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit, and soon after freezers and ice trays were added, giving birth to the household ice cube. Freon was introduced as part of refrigerator technology but was later declared dangerous to the environment. Today, safely disposing of older refrigerators with freon is considered essential for the environment. In the 1940s, separate freezers became very popular and could be found in many garages. While freezers were becoming a way of life, defrosting was an increasing problem. It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that automatic defrosting and ice making were included features in refrigerators.

Modern Food Preparation

  • The invention of the refrigerator allows families to skip tending to gardens and live animals for their sources of food. It also allows people to enjoy food from foreign lands. On the downside, this change in lifestyle increased processed food consumption, which is blamed for obesity. Today, processed foods and frozen foods are a household staple. When, the Postum Co. purchased the rights to Clarence Birdseye's freezing technology, it produced the first frozen vegetables. Birdseye's vegetables are still in the freezer aisles of most American supermarkets. Frozen foods have a reputation of being unhealthy. Even though eating fresh foods is popular, more than 97 percent of today's chefs use frozen food and say the stigma against frozen food is disappearing. Without refrigerators, preparing a modern meal would mean gathering eggs from chickens and/or milking cows rather than just opening the refrigerator door.

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