None of Carrier’s seven founders would have been surprised that air conditioning was named among the most important inventions of the 20th century. Except for the Chief himself, all would have strongly endorsed Willis Carrier’s place as one of the century’s most influential innovators. Few products have had such impact and fewer companies the century-long leadership of Carrier.
Perhaps Dr. Carrier would have felt satisfaction at how truly global air conditioning has become, fulfilling his many predictions. He may also have been delighted by the relentless innovation of Carrier engineers, including their adoption of digital tools, cloud-enabled solutions and machine learning even as their colleagues around the world continue to rely on fundamental calculations that originated with his 1911 Psychrometric Formulae.
Dr. Carrier would have been astounded by the Internet but embarrassed by the number of 21st-century folks actively singing his praises. A check of recent posts on the Web revealed comments like “Everyone in Phoenix says, ‘Thank you so very much, Mr. Carrier,’” and “I’ve always maintained that the Catholic Church should at the bare minimum canonize the man; if not, give him outright sainthood!” Today’s social media reminds Carrier employees of their founder’s legacy, and the continuing importance their company makes in the world.
Always seeking to solve the challenges of his day by controlling indoor environments, Carrier would likely be gratified to see his invention—and the independent company bearing his name—tackle some of the world’s most pressing modern challenges. He may have marveled at the role buildings play in protecting people’s health and fostering productivity, how modern fire and security solutions keep people safe and secure in all types of spaces, and the ways precise cooling and control help feed billions of people and transport critical medications at times it matters most.
Unquestionably, Willis Carrier would be proud of his company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and to its ambitious targets meant to drive meaningful impact in mitigating climate change. And he would also embrace the company’s groundbreaking research to drive critical conversations and measure and quantify the influence of indoor environments.
The words used by today’s Carrier might be new—healthy, safe, sustainable and intelligent—but the commitment to capturing the immense benefits of air conditioning for people around the globe would have felt as natural to Dr. Carrier in the 21st century as it did when he launched the industry more than a century before.