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May 5, 2023

Happy birthday, Refrigerator!

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In all Homa calendars, May 6 is tagged as a special and unique day: we celebrate the invention of the Refrigerator!

Let's retrace together the long story of this “magic box”. A journey through the history of mankind, which has developed over the centuries and accelerated during the last 300 years when changes in society intersect with technological development.

The Food Preservation quest started in the dawn of time.
For centuries, people invented many different techniques to preserve food: canning, smoking, drying and salting.
Above all, before introducing mechanical refrigeration systems, we "generated" cold using ice and snow either found locally or brought down from the mountains.

We have sources that the refrigeration for food preservation purposes began in China in 1,000 BC.
Many civilisations, including the Greeks and Romans, stored snow in insulated materials to keep foods as fresh as possible.

No technological leap occurred for years, still, in the 18th century, people in Europe were collecting ice in the winter and salting it before storing it deep underground.
At that time, the social structure of Europe was changing, and an increasing amount of people began to move from the countryside to the cities, a giant swing: urbanisation, with it a new hidden need emerged driven by the fact that suddenly a large portion of the population was away from the food sources and agricultural produce: household food preservation was becoming a necessity.

As always, necessity sharpens ingenuity.
Many ingenious and acute minds, taking advantage of the discoveries and innovations of the time, began to work on potential machines that could artificially "produce cold".

Let's try to summarise in 8 points the main steps of this disruptive innovation:

  1. William Cullen demonstrated the first known artificial form of refrigeration at the University of Glasgow in 1748. Cullen's invention, though ingenious, was not used for any practical purpose.
  2. In 1805, an American inventor, Oliver Evans, designed a blueprint for the first refrigeration machine,
  3. It wasn't until 1834 that Jacob Perkins built the first practical refrigerating machine, creating cool temperatures using a vapour compression cycle.
  4. In 1844, John Gorrie built a refrigerator prototype based on Oliver Evans' design
  5. Only on May 6, 1851, after various attempts, Gorrie himself obtained patent number 8080 for a machine capable of creating ice. The Refrigerator was born, and for this reason, this date is considered the date of birth of this fantastic appliance that improves our daily life, helping us preserve food better.
  6. In 1876, German engineer Carl Von Linde patented the process of liquefying gas that has become part of basic refrigeration technology.
  7. In 1913, Frederick W. Wolf invented the first home electric refrigerator.
  8. In 1918, William C. Durant began mass production of home refrigerators with a self-contained compressor.

However, we must not take for granted that this revolution was introduced into everyday life with the same speed that we know today.
During the early 1850s, Americans used the icebox, an early precursor of the Refrigerator.
The icebox was an insulated cabinet with a compartment containing ice that kept perishable foods cool.
Fresh ice would have to be inserted into the fridge every week.
When the first home refrigerator was introduced, the device was a luxury appliance for the wealthiest Americans.

So, let’s take the time today to celebrate this incredible invention that has made its way into every household becoming a fundamental element of our day-to-day life.

Copyright HOMA 2023- Issued By Federico Rebaudo on May 2023
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