Friday, November 26, 2010

Dr. John Gorrie - Florida's Antebellum Ice Man

John Gorrie Museum State Park
On Gorrie Square in Apalachicola, a small state museum pays tribute to a man who may have been the most remarkable Floridian so far. His name was Dr. John Gorrie and he is remembered in the historic Florida city as "the Ice Man."

Dr. Gorrie came to Florida from South Carolina in around 1833, stopping first in Jackson County before moving on down to Apalachicola. He was a prominent figure in the city's early days, serving as mayor, director for a bank branch, postmaster and as one of the founders of Trinity Episcopal Church. His primary profession, however, was the practice of medicine and it was this work that led to his remarkable invention - a machine that made ice.

Replica of Gorrie's Machine
Gorrie battled throughout his career to save the lives of fever patients under his care. Coastal cities such as Apalachicola were ravaged by malaria and yellow fever during much of the 19th century. The doctor realized the condition of his patients improved when the weather cooled off and began to experiment with ways of duplicating this process artificially.

Eventually, he built a machine that stunned the residents of Apalachicola. Not only could it cool the air, it worked so well that it also made large amounts of ice. Gorrie was granted the first U.S. patent for a mechanical refrigeration process in 1851.

To learn more about the remarkable doctor and his remarkable machine, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/gorriemuseum.

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