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AUGUST 20, 2010

H T E F Y O E N A M Two Thousand Ten AR

o you know who this man is? If you live anywhere within several hundred miles of Augusta and you have no idea, well, that’s just a truly sad and pitiful state of affairs. Why? Not because this man ever lived here or to our knowledge even visited Augusta. But we can safely say that, without this man, chances are you and I wouldn’t be living in Augusta either. Who was he? Here’s a clue or two. He was born and died in Angola, New York (1876 - 1950). At age 19 he was awarded a scholarship to Cornell University and graduated in 1901 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Before the end of 1902, he had already invented — and installed within the premises of a customer — the invention that changed the world. Not to mention your life and mine. Today. Yesterday. Last week and last month, too. This very second, in fact. It’s not the heat It really isn’t. It’s the humidity. And that was one of the first strokes of genius for which our hero was responsible. And by the way, our hero is one Willis Haviland Carrier. If by chance his name doesn’t sound familiar, it might if you remember that his first and middle names are silent. Yes, Mr. Carrier is the man who invented air conditioning! His brand name continues to appear on air conditioners to this day. Why there isn’t a national holiday in his honor — or at least across the Southern states as a bare minimum — is completely beyond us. It’s a national outrage and a complete travesty that should be rectified immediately. But back to the subheading.

THE SKINNY ON THE CARRIER FAMILY IN THE NEW WORLD

It’s one of the most important documents in terms of the physical health of billions of people.

The King of Cool The ground floor of Carrier’s world-changing invention, air conditioning, was the realization that controlling humidity was the first principle of what we’ll call indoor comfort — although his first customers were all in industrial settings. He was hired to attack humid air in printeries and pasta factories, but along the way new applications evolved. A bank had a patented “Carrier Apparatus” installed in 1906. Later that year, he came to the Palmetto State to help control heat generated by 5,000 whirling spindles in a cotton mill.

But it was in 1911 that Willis Carrier presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Entitled “Rational Psychometric Formulae,” the paper became known as the Magna Carta of Psychometrics. The Magna Carta, let us remember, is widely considered to be one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. Carrier’s Magna Carta likewise is perhaps the most important document in the history of conditioned air. — Strike that.

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Why it matters Among the ills prevented by Carrier’s epic invention are various afflictions with lifethreatening implications: • heatstroke, in which the body temperature rises rapidly to 106° or higher, resulting in dizziness, strong rapid pulse, dry skin and even death. • heat exhaustion, a condition marked by profuse sweating, rapid respirations and a rapid, weak pulse, which often leads immediately to heatstroke. • heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that occur from chemical changes and earlystage dehydration during heavy exercise and perspiration. • heat rash: who even remembers heat rash, thanks to Willis Carrier? It is (or was) skin irritation as the result of excessive sweating and often afflicted babies, making their lives — and everyone within earshot — miserable. Aside from babies, all of these miserable conditions particularly victimize the elderly and people who are sick or overweight. According to the CDC, in temperatures in the high 90s — exactly what we’ve been having for weeks — even sitting in front of a fan will not prevent heat-related illness. Yes, each and every one of us owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Willis Haviland Carrier, our first Medical Examiner Man of the Year. + Editor’s note: the other Man of the Year candidates competing against Willis Carrier each earns an Honorable Mention: Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa and Linus Pauling.

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The Carriers made their start in the New World, according to one biography, when Thomas Carrier, age 41, emigrated from Wales in 1663, settling in what would become Andover, Mass. He there met Martha Allen and they soon became man and wife, but the story didn’t end well at all. Margaret Ingels’ 1952 biography of Willis Carrier relates this: “After standing up against the Andover town fathers in a boundary dispute, [Martha] was accused of being a witch. Two of her sons, aged 13 and 10, were hung by their heels until they, too, testified against her. Cotton Mather denounced her as a ‘rampant hag’ whom the Devil had promised ‘should be the queen of Hell.’ She was arrested, convicted and, on August 19, 1692, hanged on Salem’s Gallows Hill. [Editor’s note: if you’re reading this on Thursday, that was exactly 318 years ago today.] Later it was recorded that of all the New Englanders charged with witchcraft, ‘Martha Carrier was the only one, male or female, who did not at some time or other make an admission or confession.’” About a hundred years later — in 1799 — the Carriers migrated to Western New York. Willis was born in 1876, and married three times and was widowed twice. All four are buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY. For his contributions to science and industry, says Wikipedia, “Willis Carrier was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from Alfred (N.Y.) University in 1942, was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal in 1942, was inducted posthumously in the National Inventors Hall of Fame (1985) and the Buffalo Science Museum Hall of Fame (2008)” and was named the Augusta Medical Examiner’s Man of the Year (2010). +

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Our 2010 Man of the Year  

Willis Carrier, the man who should be every year's Man of the Year, especially in the South.

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