The development of modern refrigeration involved French, American and Australian inventors, but it was a Scottish professor and an English chemist who made the key breakthroughs.
JANE Austen enjoyed eating ices and sipping French wine at her wealthy brother’s Godmersham home, courtesy of his ice-house, a brick-lined dome sunk into the ground, in which ice could remain frozen for years.
Ice-houses allowed confectioners such as the ‘Pot and Pineapple’ in Berkeley Square to sell elaborate, high-quality ices to the gentry who stopped by in their carriages, and supply the best parties and balls.
In 1756, however, one year before the ‘Pineapple’ opened, Glasgow professor William Cullen had demonstrated that evaporating ether would draw heat from water and make ice.
Michael Faraday subsequently showed how to compress and evaporate the gas endlessly to maintain steady cooling, allowing Jacob Perkins to patent the first vapour-compression refrigerator on August 14, 1835.
A commercial version was demonstrated by Frenchman Ferdinand Carré at the Universal London Exhibition of 1862, and in 1918 American giant Frigidaire began mass-production.* Soon Jane Austen’s treat was on everyone’s table.
* The word ‘fridge’ is in fact derived from Frigidaire and not from refrigerator. Early refrigerators were, like vacuum-cleaners, nicknamed after their most prominent manufacturer.