Cool runnings: Truckdrivers tip hat to Willis Carrier

| 7/19/2002

On July 17, 1902, Willis H. Carrier invented air conditioning - originally designed to solve some quality problems at a Brooklyn printing plant.

It not only spawned a company and an industry, but also brought about profound economic, social and cultural changes. As far as trucking is concerned, imagine the jobs and services that otherwise would not exist - each day, truckers haul goods in all regions of the country ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to chilled wine.

For example, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) reports that 27 percent of its members pull reefers.

By the end of the 20th century, 80 percent of U.S. homes were air conditioned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps the most dramatic impact of air conditioning has been in previously "inhospitable" climates like Atlanta, Sao Paulo, Cairo and Singapore. Some even credit Carrier for the rise of the New South and the Sun Belt.

In fact, when asked to name the most important invention of the 20th century, Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew cited the air conditioner. Before air conditioning, commerce in the city-state just north of the equator was confined to the early-morning hours.

Carrier Corp., which bears its founder's name, has manufactured some 100 million air conditioning units in the past 100 years. And now it's heralding the 100th anniversary with a celebration designed to achieve widespread recognition for its founder -- an astonishingly "unsung hero."

"Despite the immense impact of air conditioning on humankind, Willis Carrier is still surprisingly unknown," said Geraud Darnis, president, Carrier Corporation. "We think he should rightfully be viewed by historians and the public as one of the world's greatest inventors."

Truckers agree.
-- Dick Larsen, senior editor