There should be a framed photo of the great inventor John Gorrie inside every single Florida home. Ben & Jerry’s should make a “John Gorrie” ice cream. Hollywood should make a biopic about him starring Bill Murray. Every Florida resident should be required to make a pilgrimage to “Gorrie Square” in Apalachicola at least once in their lives.
Gorrie moved to Florida from the Carolinas in 1833 to work in different hospitals. He was active in the community and attended church on Sunday.
But Florida was tough. There was an outbreak of yellow fever. In fact, there was an excessive amount of illnesses due to the horribly hot and swampy weather. People were dying as they rode their horses around town. Disease carrying bugs were everywhere.
This fine man, Dr. John Gorrie, noticed that the fevers would mainly strike when it was excessively hot and humid, so he began tinkering with an idea. In fact, Dr. Gorrie spent over five years of his life working on this “insane” machine (which now sits at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.)!
At first, Gorrie suspended ice from his ceiling, but back then, ice was imported from the northern states. That’s right, ice was imported! No ice trays and no sinks with running water!
Gorrie became so immersed in his invention that he quit being a doctor and totally committed himself to the task at hand, making his own ice and letting the coolness flow through the air of his house.
He started to break down because of the humiliation caused by haters.
While waiting for his patent, he was mocked by the paparazzi.
They called him “insane fella.”A big TMZ type newspaper of that era, The New York Globe, had this to say about our friend,”This ‘crank’ down in Florida really thinks he can make ice with his ridiculous machine?”
Haters indeed. There were also people trying to steal his idea and monopolize on this new product called “D.I.Y. Ice”.
Because of all of this antagonism, the good doctor lost his financial backers… lost his mind…and died broke and penniless.
However, in 1851 Gorrie was awarded the first United States patent for mechanical refrigeration, and his machine revolutionized the modern technology of cold air production.
Without his sacrifice, this great state would still be a disgusting swamp, and the world would be a much less cool place.
And so, from all of us in the Sunshine State, we thank you, and may you forever rest in piece, in an air conditioned tomb in Apalachicola.