Frederick McKinley Jones
Born May 17, 1893 – February 21, 1961
Air Conditioner for Vehicles
Patent #: 2,303,857
Frederick Jones invented the first successful system for mobile
refrigeration. His invention eliminated the far less effective use of ice
and salt to preserve foods for transport and greatly extended the distance
over which food could be successfully delivered.
In the summer of 1938, local merchant Joseph Numero made an offhanded
promise to a trucking company to build a refrigerated truck that would not
fail when subjected to the normal bumps and vibrations that occur during
shipping. Jones, working for Numero, designed a durable, small unit with a
compressor mounted under the trailer that was powered by a four-cylinder
engine. Used in trucks, railroad cars, ships, and planes, Jones’s technology
revolutionized the distribution of food and other perishables, made fresh
produce available anywhere in the country year-round, and changed Americans’
Jones and Numero went on to found Thermo King Corporation to produce the
mobile refrigeration device Jones had invented. Thermo King became an
international corporation and had over $1 billion in annual sales when it
was acquired by the Ingersoll-Rand Company in 1997.
Jones was born in Covington, Kentucky. Despite having minimal formal
schooling, he became the first African-American to be awarded the
National Medal of Technology.