The Chilling Story of John Gorrie

By:  Rebecca Terrell
10/03/2011
       
The Chilling Story of John Gorrie

The name John Gorrie is little known today, though a sculpture commemorating his contributions to the lives of every American stands in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. He is the father of refrigeration and air conditioning, and by virtue of that title can also be considered one of the founding fathers of our modern industrial economy.

Gorrie was born 208 years ago today on an island in the Caribbean and grew up in South Carolina. He went on to earn a medical degree in New York. But it was on the Gulf Coast of Florida where he settled in 1833 that his medical research evolved into a life-long quest to combat the effects of temperature and climate on disease. He saw his patients at the U.S. Marine hospital in Apalachicola suffering from malaria and yellow fever. Popular thought at the time attributed such tropical diseases to bad air. (The word malaria means "bad air disease.")

He set up a primitive cooling system in the sickroom with ice-filled basins suspended from the ceiling. When his supply of ice was interrupted by regional trade disputes, he concocted the first patented ice-making machine in history. Gorrie also had the foresight to drain area swamps and use mosquito netting in the hospital long before the protozoan source of malaria was discovered.

The name John Gorrie is little known today, though a sculpture commemorating his contributions to the lives of every American stands in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. He is the father of refrigeration and air conditioning, and by virtue of that title can also be considered one of the founding fathers of our modern industrial economy.

Gorrie was born 208 years ago today on an island in the Caribbean and grew up in South Carolina. He went on to earn a medical degree in New York. But it was on the Gulf Coast of Florida where he settled in 1833 that his medical research evolved into a life-long quest to combat the effects of temperature and climate on disease. He saw his patients at the U.S. Marine hospital in Apalachicola suffering from malaria and yellow fever. Popular thought at the time attributed such tropical diseases to bad air. (The word malaria means "bad air disease.")

He set up a primitive cooling system in the sickroom with ice-filled basins suspended from the ceiling. When his supply of ice was interrupted by regional trade disputes, he concocted the first patented ice-making machine in history. Gorrie also had the foresight to drain area swamps and use mosquito netting in the hospital long before the protozoan source of malaria was discovered.

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