From the armpit of America…

So Slashdot this morning reported on a story about the 100th anniversary of air conditioning. What a load of crap. If you want a good book on the history of air conditioning (and much more), check out ABSOLUTE ZERO instead which documents air conditioning technologies back to the Cornelius van Drebbel cooling the (damn big) Westminster Abbey in 1620.

You may remember Drebbel from the recent TLC (or maybe it was Discovery) special on him and his submarine (note: that link contains a number of factual errors regarding the air supply in the submarine), built and demonstrated the year after he did his air conditioning experiments. It's interesting that he doesn't get credit for the fact that he isolated oxygen a century and a half before the credited Joseph Priestly either, but he's only got himself to blame — he left very little in the way of notes (which was the case for far too many scientists through earlier history).

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is never underestimate the age of an invention, or underestimate the ingenuity of humans that came before us. Most modern technologies have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years more than the average person assumes. Hell, Drebbel wasn't even close to the first person to use refrigeration technology (he just did the most impressive demonstrations). Many alchemists, Giambattista della Porta being a good example, experimented with with saltpeter and other substances to induce extreme cold… Well, I could go on and on, but seriously, pick up that book if you find this interesting.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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