Willis Carrier


Willis Carrier
Willis Carrier
Death date
Fields of study
Air conditioning, Refridgeration


Willis Carrier was born in 1876 in western New York to Duane and Elizabeth Haviland Carrier. He was an only child who spent a great deal of time tinkering with mechanical devices. His interest in engineering led him to a state scholarship at Cornell University, where he met his first wife, Claire Seymour. After graduating from Cornell with a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1901, Carrier took a job at the Buffalo Forge Company, where he set up a research laboratory and experimented with the industrial applications of electricity.

At the turn of the century, there was already an understanding of how to cool, circulate, and moisten air, but Carrier was the first to reduce air humidity and hold moisture content to specified levels. He defined air conditioning as a process that would clean air while controlling temperature, humidity, air circulation, and ventilation. In 1903 the Buffalo Forge Company installed the first scientific air conditioning system at Sackett-Wilhelms Lithography and Publishing Company in Brooklyn. Many companies that dealt with paper and textiles were very interested in the idea of improving their production processes by controlling the levels of moisture and temperature.

Carrier continued researching and inventing industrial applications for air conditioning. He developed equipment to dehumidify air by cooling it with a water spray. In 1915, he and six other young engineers from the Buffalo Forge Company formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation. The Carrier Engineering Corporation was a center of both research and manufacturing. It was soon successful in producing not only air conditioning systems but also refrigeration machines. The market for air conditioning developed first in public venues, such as department stores, sports venues, and movie theaters during the 1920s. Carrier was particularly proud that his company provided air conditioning to the Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. Although air conditioning did not become common in private homes until the 1950s, the Carrier Corporation became the company most associated with refrigeration and air conditioning in the United States. Out of his youthful interest in electricity and engineering, Willis Carrier advanced scientific knowledge, pioneered an industry, and built a successful commercial enterprise.