Scottish fact of the day: William Cullen, inventor of refrigeration

William Cullen invented refrigeration, but the innovation was not widely adopted until more than a century later. Picture: Jane Barlow

William Cullen invented refrigeration, but the innovation was not widely adopted until more than a century later. Picture: Jane Barlow

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THE first recorded instance of artificial refrigeration was unveiled by physicist and chemist William Cullen (1710-1790) in the mid-18th century.

Cullen demonstrated his discovery at Glasgow University in 1748, although no proposal was made to commercialise the technique at the time.

Scottish scientist William Cullen
Scottish scientist William Cullen

The Hamilton-born scientist achieved the effect of refrigeration by boiling ethyl ether in a partial vacuum.

It was only in the 19th century that freezing became a commonplace method of preserving perishable goods such as meat, a development which coincided with innovations in electrical motors that replaced more primitive ways of transporting food via ships over long distances.

An estimated 500 million fridge-freezer units are now used worldwide.

 

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