The History of the Refrigerator

A refrigerator (often called a “fridge” for short) is a cooling appliance comprising a thermally insulated compartment and a mechanism to transfer heat from it to the external environment, cooling the contents to a temperature below ambient. Refrigerators are extensively used to store foods which deteriorate at higher temperatures; spoilage from bacterial growth and other processes is much slower at low temperatures.

Before the fridge, people used “icehouses” to provide cool storage for the majority of the year. They were packed with snow and ice during the winter. Using the enviroment to cool things is still used today.

The first artificial refrigeration was unveiled by William Cullen at Glasgow University in 1748. Between then and 1902 when the first air conditioner was established many establisments in cooling were made. In 1850 Dr. John Gorie developed the ice maker and in 1857 James Harrison introduced vapor cooling to the brewing and meat packing industries.

The absorbtion refrigerator was invented by Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters in 1922, while they were students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweeden. It became a worldwide success and was commercialized by Electrolux. Other pioneers included Charles Tellier, David Boyle, and Raoul Pictet.

Refrigerators used to consume more energy than any other home appliance, but in the last twenty years, great strides have been made to make refrigerators more energy efficient. Current models that are Energy Star qualified use 50 percent less energy than models made before 1993.[3]

Early refrigerator models (1916 and on) featured a cold compartment for ice cube trays. Successful processing of fresh vegetables through freezing began in the late 1920s by the Postum Company (the forerunner of General Foods) which had acquired the technology when it bought the rights to Clarence Birdseye’s successful fresh freezing methods.

By the year 1900 half of American houses were using an icebox to keep food cold. The ice used for storage was expensive so the other half had very little in the way of cooled storage. That all changed when General Electric developed the first Moniter-Top unit in 1927. This was the first widespread used refrigerator. As more and more advancemets were made they were cheaper and more affordable for the majority of Americans. Today the vast majority of Americans have a refrigerator.