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Willis H. Carrier Biography

The Father of Air Conditioning | Willis Carrier was a gifted engineer with a unique ability to solve problems

In 1902, he designed the first modern air-conditioning system – an invention that would go on to fundamentally change the world. In 1998, Carrier was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century. 

Genealogical researchers agree that Willis’s ancestor, Thomas Carrier, was born in Wales in 1626 and immigrated to Massachusetts around 1663. His children, which would be Willis's great-grandparents were courageous and adventurous in exploring America. Joining an ox-team, his great-grandparents decided to push west in 1799 passing through the Mohawk Valley. 

Likely inherited from his grand-parents, Willis was described as a loyal friend and enthusiast of outdoor activities. 

Willis Haviland Carrier was born on November 26, 1876, in Angola, New York, to parents Duane Williams Carrier and Elizabeth R. Haviland. Born on a dairy farm just outside of Buffalo, he worked hard on the family farm and was their only child. As a young boy he attended a one-room schoolhouse, and never missed an opportunity to play baseball or take a dip in Lake Erie with his friends.

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When Willis was 9 years old, long before becoming a brilliant engineer, he struggled grasping the concept of fractions. His mother helped him master the idea using a pot of apples. Carrier remembered this event fondly as “the most important thing that ever happened to me.” He continued to use the simple logic to help conceptualize difficult problems throughout his life.

After graduating from Angola Academy, Willis took a short break from attending school himself, instead working to teach students in school. His sacrifice helped to support his family during the Panic of 1893. When he returned to continue his education, he attended Buffalo's Central High School where he performed well and received a scholarship to Cornell University in Ithaca. 

Never one to slow down, between semesters Carrier would start exploring his business acumen as a door-to-door salesman for viewing cards and stereoscopes.

By 1899, he and a partner endeavored to create a laundry business for the students at Cornell. In 1901, Carrier successfully graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. 

August 29, 1902 Willis married Edith Claire Seymour, a fellow university student in Angola, New York. 

After graduation, Carrier accepted a job at the Buffalo Forge Company, drafting plans for heating and drying lumber and coffee. Settling back in Buffalo, he was salaried at $10 week.

Ready to learn more?

Weathermakers to the World is the story of Willis Haviland Carrier, the company he founded, and the birth and extraordinary growth of modern air conditioning around the world.



Willis Carrier was born November 26, 1876, in Angola, N.Y.


Received engineering degree from Cornell.


Started working at Buffalo Forge Company.


Designed the world's first modern air conditioning system.


Willis Carrier installed the world’s first modern air-conditioning system at the Sackett & Wilhelms printing plant in Brooklyn, New York.


Developed Rational Psychrometric Formulae.


Founded Carrier Engineering Corporation.


Carrier hired Margaret Ingels as America’s first woman air-conditioning engineer.


Carrier unveils the first centrifugal chiller, which opened the door to large-scale comfort air conditioning.


The M.V. Victoria becomes the first vessel to make its maiden voyage equipped with Carrier air conditioning.


Awarded honorary doctorates from Lehigh University and 1942 Alfred University.


Willis Carrier died October 7, 1950, in New York, N.Y.


Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


Named one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century".

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