James Harrison was not a farmer or a chef, but he changed the way we eat. In 1837, he emigrated from Scotland to Australia. On arrival, he noticed that food soon deteriorated under the fierce sun that beat down on his new homeland. After doing various jobs, including being a journalist and a politician, he focused on a new challenge. How to preserve food that would otherwise rot away if left in the hot sun!
After trying various experiments, he developed a refrigeration system and took out a patent in 1854. He returned to the UK and showed his system to Michael Faraday the famous scientist and various businessmen. As a result, he arranged for ships to have refrigerators installed. That transformed many businesses as fruit, meat and dairy products could be transported long distances. Within a short time, the cities of Europe and America were gaining better quality food at lower prices. The result was that farmers were encouraged to grow more as they could sell more. Although poverty was widespread, fewer people died from starvation.
James Harrison also had an effect on medical practice as medicines could be kept in a usable state for longer periods. His invention helped advance research. He also established an ice making organization to help people cool things down. Each year more people found applications for refrigeration and ice. Of course, refrigeration also helps us transport wine and beer around the world.
Today, we almost take ice it for granted. But, global warming will mean less natural ice and we will have to rely on James Harrison’s invention. In my view, he was an amazing person and deserved to be recognized as the man who had the greatest food idea of all time.
Thanks to prettydaisies for the use of the flickr photo