JOHN GORRIE Biography - Famous Medicine & health care related men and women


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Dr. John Gorrie (1803 - 1855), an early pioneer in the invention of the                     
artificial manufacture of ice, refrigeration, and air conditioning, was granted             
the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. Dr. Gorrie's basic               
principle is the one most often used in refrigeration today; namely, cooling                 
caused by the rapid expansion of gases. Using two double acting force pumps he               
first condensed and then rarified air. His apparatus, initially designed to                 
treat yellow fever patients, reduced the temperature of compressed air by                   
interjecting a small amount of water into it. The compressed air was submerged               
in coils surrounded by a circulating bath of cooling water. He then allowed the             
interjected water to condense out in a holding tank, andreleased or rarified,               
the compressed air into a tank of lower pressure containing brine; This lowered             
the temperature of the brine to 26 degrees F. or below, and immersing drip-fed,             
brick-sized, oil coated metal containers of non-saline water, or rain water,                 
into the brine, manufactured ice bricks. The cold air was released in an open               
system into the atmosphere.                                                                 
The first known artificial refrigeration was scientifically demonstrated by                 
William Cullen in a laboratory performance at the University of Glasgow in 1748,             
when he let ethyl ether boil into a vacuum. In 1805, Oliver Evans in the United             
States designed but never attempted to build, a refrigeration machine that used             
vapor instead of liquid. Using Evans' refrigeration concept, Jacob Perkins of               
the U.S. and England, developed an experimental volatile liquid, closed-cycle               
compressor in 1834.                                                                         
Commercial refrigeration is believed to have been initiated by an American                   
businessman, Alexander C. Twinning using sulphuric ether in 1856. Shortly                   
afterward, an Australian, James Harrison, examined the refrigerators used by                 
Gorrie and Twinning, and introduced vapor (ether) compression refrigeration to               
the brewing and meat packing industries.                                                     
The granting of a U.S. Patent in 1860 to Ferdinand P.E. Carre of France, for his             
development of a closed, ammonia-absorption system, laid the foundation for                 
widespread modern refrigeration. Unlike vapor-compression machines which used               
air, Carre used rapidly expanding ammonia which liquifies at a much lower                   
temperature than water, and is thus able to absorb more heat. Carre's                       
refrigeration became, and still is, the most widely used method of cooling. The             
development of a number of synthetic refrigerants in the 1920's, removed the                 
need to be concerned about the toxic danger and odor of ammonia leaks.                       
The remaining problem for the development of modern air conditioning would not               
be that of lowering temperature by mechanical means, but that of controlling                 
humidity. Although David Reid brought air into contact with a cold water spray               
in his modification of the heating and ventilating system of the British                     
Parliament in 1836, and Charles Smyth experimented with air cycle cooling (1846             
- 56), the problem was resolved by Willis Haviland Carrier's U.S. Patent in 1906,           
in which he passed hot soggy air through a fine spray of water, condensing                   
moisture on the droplets, leaving drier air behind. These inventions have had               
global implications.                                                                         
Dr. Gorrie was honored by Florida, when his statue was placed in Statuary Hall               
in the U.S. Capitol. In 1899, a monument to Dr. Gorrie was erected by the                   
Southern Ice Exchange in the small coastal town of Apalachicola, where he had               
served as mayor in 1837, and had developed his machine.                                     
Reportedly born October 3, 1803 in Charleston, South Carolina, of Scots - Irish             
descent, he was raised in Columbia, S.C. He attended the College of Physicians               
and Surgeons of the Western District of New York, in Fairfield, New York, from               
1825 to 1827. Although the school lasted only a few decades, it had a profound               
influence, second only to the Philadelphia Medical School, upon the scientific               
and medical community of the United States in the 19th century. Young Asa Gray,             
from Oneida County, New York, who by 1848 would be ranked as the leading                     
botanist in the United States, and who in time would become a close friend of Dr.           
Alvin Wentworth Chapman of Apalachicola, the leading botanist in the South,                 
served as an assistant in the school's chemical department. In later years, Dr.             
Gray had distinct recollections of Gorrie as a "promising student."                         
Dr. Gorrie initially practiced in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1828, coming to             
the burgeoning cotton port of Apalachicola in 1833. He supplemented his income               
by becoming Assistant (1834), then Postmaster in Apalachicola. He became a                   
Notary Public in 1835. The Apalachicola Land Company obtained clear title to the             
area by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1835, and in 1836 laid out the city's               
grid-iron plat along the lines of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gorrie, who served             
as Vice-Intendant in 1836, and Intendant (Mayor), in 1837, would be an effective             
advocate for the rest of his life for draining the swamps, clearing the weeds               
and maintaining clean food markets in the city. He first served as Secretary of             
the Masonic Lodge in 1835, was a partner in the Mansion House Hotel (1836),                 
President of the Apalachicola Branch Bank of Pensacola (1836), a charter member             
of the Marine Insurance Bank of Apalachicola (1837), a physician for the Marine             
Hospital Service of the U.S. Treasury Department (1837 - 1844), and a charter               
incorporator and founding vestryman of Trinity Episcopal Church, Apalachicola (1837).       
Dr. Gorrie married Caroline Frances Myrick Beman, of a Columbia, South Carolina             
family, the widowed proprietress of the Florida Hotel in Apalachicola, on May 8,             
1838. Shortly thereafter, he resigned his various positions in Apalachicola, and             
the family left the city not to return until 1840. He was named Justice of the               
Peace in 1841, the same year that yellow fever struck the area.                             
Mal-aria, Italian, "bad air", and yellow fever, prevailed in the hot, low-lying,             
tropical and sub-tropical areas where there was high humidity and rapid                     
decomposition of vegetation. Noxious effluvium, or poisonous marsh gas was                   
thought to be the cause. The "putrid" winds from marshy lowlands were regarded               
as deadly, especially at night. The specific causes were unknown, and although               
one had quinine for malaria, the gin and tonic of India, there was no cure nor               
preventive vaccine, for yellow fever. The legendary Flying Dutchman was founded             
on the story of a ship with yellow fever onboard. Malaria would start with                   
shaking and violent chills, followed by high fever, and a drenching sweat.                   
Insidious, it could recur in the victim as well as kill. Yellow fever did not               
recur; one either died or survived. It came in mysterious, vicious waves,                   
killing anywhere from 12 to 70 percent of its victims. It started with shivering,           
high fever, insatiable thirst, savage headaches, and severe back and leg pains.             
In a day or so, the restless patient would become jaundiced and turn yellow. In             
the terminal stages, the patient would spit up mouthfuls of dark blood, the                 
terrifying "black vomit" (vomito negro), the body temperature would drop, the               
pulse fade, and the comatose patient, cold to the touch, would die in about 8 to             
10 hours. So great was the terror, that the victims would be buried as quickly               
as possible. Areas would be quarantined, and yellow flags flown. Gauze would be             
hung over beds to filter air; handkerchiefs would be soaked in vinegar; garlic               
would be worn in shoes. Bed linens and compresses would be soaked in camphor;               
sulfur would be burned in outdoor smudge pots. Gunpowder would be burned, and               
cannons would be fired. And, later, when it was over, the cleaning and                       
fumigating would occur.                                                                     
It would not be until 1901 in Havana, Cuba, that Drs. Walter Reed, Carlos Finlay             
and William Crawford Gorgas, with others, would demonstrate conclusively that               
the Aedes Aegypti, or Stegomyia Fasciata mosquito was the carrier of the yellow             
fever virus. It would be about the same time that the English physician, Sir                 
Ronald Ross in India, would correctly identify the Anopheles mosquito as the                 
carrier of the malaria protozoa. As early as 1848, in Mobile, Alabama, however,             
Dr. Josiah Nott first suggested that mosquitos might be involved. The yellow                 
fever epidemic of 1841, and the hurricane and tidal wave, known locally as the "Great       
Tide" of 1842, destroyed Apalachicola's rival cotton port of St. Joseph some                 
thirty miles to the west on the deep water sound of St. Joseph's Bay. Using                 
Florida's first railway (1837) to transport cotton from the Apalachicola River,             
St. Joseph had hosted Florida's Constitutional Convention in 1838.                           
Dr. Gorrie became convinced that cold was the healer. He noted that "Nature                 
would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons." Ice, cut in the winter in               
northern lakes, stored in underground ice houses, and shipped, packed in sawdust,           
around the Florida Keys by sailing vessel, in mid-summer could be purchased                 
dockside on the Gulf Coast. In 1844, he began to write a series of articles in               
Apalachicola's "Commercial Advertiser" newspaper, entitled, "On the prevention               
of Malarial Diseases".                                                                       
He used the Nom De Plume, "Jenner", a tribute to Edward Jenner, (1749 - 1823),               
the discoverer of smallpox vaccine. According to these articles, he had                     
constructed an imperfect refrigeration machine by May, 1844, carrying out a                 
proposal he had advanced in 1842. All of Gorrie's personal records were                     
accidentally destroyed sometime around 1860.                                                 
"If the air were highly compressed, it would heat up by the energy of                       
compression. If this compressed air were run through metal pipes cooled with                 
water, and if this air cooled to the water temperature was expanded down to                 
atmospheric pressure again, very low temperatures could be obtained, even low               
enough to freeze water in pans in a refrigerator box." The compressor could be               
powered by horse, water, wind driven sails, or steampower.                                   
Dr. Gorrie submitted his patent petition on February 27, 1848, three years after             
Florida became a state. In April of 1848, he was having one of his ice machines             
built in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Cincinnati Iron Works, and in Octobcr, he                 
demonstrated its operation. It was described in the Scientific American in                   
September of 1849. On August 22, 1850, he received London Patent #13,124, and on             
May 6, 1851, U. S. Patent #8080. Although the mechanism produced ice in                     
quantities, leakage and irregular performance sometimes impaired its operation.             
Gorrie went to New Orleans in search of venture capital to market the device,               
but either problems in product demand and operation, or the opposition of the               
ice lobby, discouraged backers. He never realized any return from his invention.             
Upon his death on June 29, 1855, he was survived by his wife Caroline (1805 -               
1864), his son John Myrick (1838 - 1866), and his daughter, Sarah (1844 - 1908).             
Dr. Gorrie is buried in Gorrie Square in Apalachicola, his wife and son are                 
buried-St. Luke's-Episcopal Cemetery, Marianna, Florida, and his daughter, in               
Milton, Florida.