It’s a contraption that makes the lists of “Greatest Inventions Ever”; at the same time, it’s accused of causing global disaster. It has changed everything from architecture to people’s food habits to their voting patterns, to even the way big business washes its windows. It has saved countless lives . . . while causing countless deaths. Most of us are glad it’s there. But we don’t know how, or when, it got there.
It’s air conditioning.
For thousands of years, humankind attempted to do something about the slow torture of hot weather. Everything was tried: water power, slave power, electric power, ice made from steam engines and cold air made from deadly chemicals, “zephyrifers,” refrigerated beds, ventilation amateurs and professional air-sniffers. It wasn’t until 1902 when an engineer barely out of college developed the “Apparatus for Treating Air”a machine that could actually cool the indoorsand everyone assumed it would instantly change the world.
That wasn’t the case. There was a time when people “ignored” hot weather while reading each day’s list of heat-related deaths, women wore furs in the summertime, heatstroke victims were treated with bloodletting . . . and the notion of a machine to cool the air was considered preposterous, even sinful.
The story of air conditioning is actually two stories: the struggle to perfect a cooling device, and the effort to convince people that they actually needed such a thing. With a cast of characters ranging from Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Nixon to Felix the Cat, Cool showcases the myriad reactions to air conditioning some of them dramatic, many others comical and wonderfully inconsistentas it was developed and presented to the world. Here is a unique perspective on air conditioning’s fascinating history: how we rely so completely on it today, and how it might change radically tomorrow.
|Publisher:||Fordham University Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
SALVATORE BASILE was educated at the Boston Conservatory and The Juilliard School and began his career as a professional musician. After penning various music-related articles, he entered the field of social commentary with his history Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Fordham).
Table of Contents
1. Ice, Air, and Crowd Poison
2. The Wondrous Comfort of Ammonia
3. For Paper, Not People
4. Coolth: Everybody's Doing It
5. Big Ideas. Bold Concepts. Bad Timing.
6. From Home Front to Each Home
7. The Unnecessary, Unhealthy Luxury (that No One would Give Up)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
DEFINITELY A SLEEPER I became interested in this book after the New York Times gave it a thumbs-up. I never would have found it otherwise. It shows up in a lot of “Engineering” sections, but it's not about air conditioning engineering. It's just a whole lot of fun. The author writes in the introduction, “Plenty of excellent histories already trace the technical development of air conditioning. But equally important, and often overlooked, is the story of how people reacted to it in those far-off days: sometimes with enthusiasm, but other times with ignorance, or disapproval, or even pious condemnation.” Then we're off on a historical roller coaster ride, and some of it is laugh-out-loud funny.......the time before AC was invented, when people were surprised they were dropping with the heat even though they were buttoned up in wool clothes. The early ice-making machine that went down in flames because a man called the Ice King didn't want any competition. The egotistical engineer who redid the US Capitol so the Senate and House were built without any windows, just so he could install a “scientific” ventilation setup – and it turned out to be so bad they spent the next 70 years tearing it out and installing it again, over and over. (In every chapter there's a section called “Washington's Hot Air,” telling all about presidential battles with the heat. Great.) The invention of AC, and how it showed up in factories, movie theaters, TV studios, department stores, everywhere but houses. Then, all the ways the AC companies tried to sell it to Mr. and Mrs. America.......what do models in gowns have to do with air conditioners? All these facts are combined into a real story, and told with a sly sense of humor. Worth checking out.