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Fascinating facts about Carl von Linde inventor of the refrigerator in 1876.

Carl von Linde
Carl von Linde, German engineer whose invention of a continuous process of liquefying gases in large quantities formed a basis for the modern technology of refrigeration. Refrigeration is chiefly used to store foodstuffs at low temperatures, thus inhibiting the destructive action of bacteria, yeast, and mold.
Inventor: Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde
Carl von Linde photo courtesy
Criteria: Modern prototype. First practical. Entrepreneur.
Birth: June 11, 1842 in Berndorf, Germany
Death: November 16, 1934 in Munich, Germany
Nationality: German
Invention: refrigerator in 1876
GE 1927 Monitor Top Refrigerator courtesy
Function: noun / re·frig·er·a·tor
Definition: A refrigerator (often shortened to fridge) and/or freezer is an electrical appliance that uses refrigeration to help preserve food.
Patent(s): In 1877, Carl von Linde obtained a patent for his refrigerator from the German Imperial Patent Office
727,650 (US) issued May 12, 1903 for Linde oxygen process
728,173 (US) issued May 12, 1903 for Apparatus for process
1720 Dr. William Cullen, a Scotsman, studied the evaporation of liquids in a vacuum
1820 Michael Faraday, a Londoner, liquified ammonia to cause cooling
1852 William Thomson & James Prescott cooling increases in proportion to the pressure difference
1859 Ferdinand Carre of France, developed the first ammonia/water refrigeration machine
1871 Carl von Linde of Germany published an essay on improved refrigeration techniques
1873 Carl von Linde first practical and portable compressor refrigeration machine was built in Munich
1876 Carl von Linde, early models he used methyl ether, but changed to an ammonia cycle
1878 von Linde starts Lindes Eismaschinen AG, (Society for Lindes Ice Machines), now Linde AG
1894 Linde developed a new method (Linde technique) for the liquefaction of large quantities of air.
1894 Linde AG installs refrigerator at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland
1895 Carl von Linde produced large amounts of liquid air using the Thomson-Joule effect.
1920 there were some 200 different refrigerator models on the market.
1922 Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters introduce absorption process refrigerator
1923 AB Arctic.begins production of refrigerators based on Platen-Munter's invention
1925 Electrolux purchases AB Arctic and launches the "D-fridge" on the world market
1925 Steel and porcelain cabinets began appearing in the mid-20s
1927 first refrigerator to see widespread use was the General Electric "Monitor-Top" refrigerator.
1931 Dupont produced commercial quantities of R-12, trademarked as Freon
1931 the first air-cooled refrigerator introduced by Electrolux
1946 Mass production of modern refrigerators didn't get started until after World War II.
1955 80% of American homes now have refrigerators
2005 A domestic refrigerator is present in 99.5% of American homes
refrigerator, fridge, fridgerator, refrigeration, Carl Linde, Carl von Linde, william cullen, oliver evans, fred wolf, linde ag, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, James Prescott Joule,  invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
When Carl von Linde was born on June 11, 1842 in the Lutheran parsonage of Berndorf in the Oberfranken district of Bavaria, he was never expected to forge a career as a distinguished scientist, gifted inventor and successful entrepreneur. His father Friedrich would have liked to have seen the third of his nine children follow in his footsteps as minister.

However, the family’s move to Kempten, where his father was assigned a parish, and his later attendance at the local high school put Carl von Linde in close contact with the family of the director of the Kempten cotton spinning mill. His frequent visits to the factory, with its impressive power machines stimulated in the youth an interest in technology and a desire to study engineering.

Despite the tight financial situation in the parson’s large household, von Linde was able to convince his father to allow him to study mechanical engineering at the leading technical university of the time, the Polytechnikum in Zurich, Switzerland. There, his most important teachers were Dr. Zeuner (mechanics and theoretical machine studies), Dr. Reuleaux (mechanical engineering) and Dr. Clausius (physics), he reported in his memoir "Aus meinem Leben und von meiner Arbeit (My Life and Work)." It was also Zeuner and Reuleaux who wrote personal letters of recommendation for Linde when he had to leave the Polytechnikum without officially graduating as a result of a student protest.

Von Linde received his first practical training as an intern in the mechanical workshop of the Kottern cotton spinning plant near Kempten, then at Borsig in Berlin. He started work as an engineer in the Borsig drawing office in August 1865.

At the end of 1865, Carl von Linde applied to become the head of the technical office upon the founding of the Krauss & Co. locomotive factory in Munich. On February 20 or the following year he received this position and celebrated by becoming engaged to Helene Grimm on February 26 before leaving Berlin. The wedding was held September 17 in Kempten. During their 53-year marriage, the Lindes had six children: Maria (1867- 1954), Franziska (1868-1966), Friedrich (1870-1965), Anna (1873-1949), Richard (1876-1961) and Elisabeth (1880-1959).

Still, the young Linde, not yet 25 years old, had aspirations beyond the drawing office into science and teaching. On the recommendation of the founding rector of the Polytechnic School in Munich (later Technical University) he was hired as an associate professor on August 24, 1868 and on December 24, 1872 was promoted to full professor of mechanical engineering. He included the theory of refrigeration machines in his teaching syllabus.

So that he could also give his students practical instruction, the Bavarian government approved 70,000 florins to set up a machine laboratory; the first of its kind in Germany. It would become the starting point for his groundbreaking developments in refrigeration technology.

During his first teaching period from 1868 to 1879, the restless von Linde was already involved in various technical associations - an activity that would take a considerable amount of his time during his term as head of the "Gesellschaft für Linde’s Eismaschinen" in 1890 after his return to Munich.

In 1871 Linde published an essay on improved refrigeration techniques. This caught the interest of a large number of breweries, and soon Linde was supplying them with his refrigerating machines, while constantly working to improve them.

In 1878 Linde made the decision to put all his time and effort into the production of refrigerating machinery; he gave up his professorship and founded a refrigerating company, Lindes Eismaschinen AG, (now Linde AG) in Wiesbaden. Business went well; the company sold products to breweries, slaughterhouses and cold storage companies all over Europe.

Both systems used the principle of cooling gas; until then cooling had taken place mechanically. In 1894, following a request from the Guinness brewery in Dublin for a new cooling technique, Linde developed a revolutionary new method (Linde technique) for the liquefaction of large quantities of air.

Linde's method was based on the works of James Prescott Joule and William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), and the introduction of the countercurrent technique. Air is sucked into the machine, where it is compressed, pre-cooled and decompressed; at this point it cools down. In the countercurrent heat exchanger, the air which has already been cooled is used to cool more compressed air, which again cools the next input of air. Continual repetition leads to further lowering of the temperature until the air is liquified.

Professor von Linde is thus one of the founding fathers of the Bavarian Boiler Review Association and the Munich Thermal Testing Station. In the Polytechnic Association he examined applications for a Bavarian patent and served as part of the Berlin commission that reformed German patent law.

Back in Munich and armed with an honorary professorship (it was converted into a full professorship without teaching duties in 1900), von Linde took the position of Bavarian district chairman of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) in 1892 and was elected chairman of the Bavarian Boiler Association. In 1895 he was appointed to the board of trustees at the German Physical-Technical Institute, one year later to the Bavarian Academy of Science. In 1898 he joined the Göttingen Association for Applied Physics and Mathematics, from which the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and ultimately the Max Planck Society emerged.

In 1904 and 1905 he served as president of the VDI, and in 1903 he immersed himself with Oskar von Miller in the founding of the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Carl von Linde remained on the museum’s board until he was 80 years old.

As always, however, his main attention was focused on the Linde Company and its subsidiaries. His practical work in the area of refrigeration and later in air liquefaction and air separation shows the entrepreneur-engineer side of von Linde - and thus his true calling.

His entrepreneurial side was often in demand on many supervisory boards - of a few subsidiaries as well as of the locomotive manufacturer Krauss & Co., the Mainz Aktienbrauerei, the Trieberg Electricity Company, The Güldner engine company and Maschinenfabrik Sürth. This multifaceted and diverse range of commitments required an active travel schedule.

Although von Linde withdrew more and more from his active working life starting in 1910, he held on to some of his supervisory and advisory activities until the end of his life. His two sons Friedrich and Richard and his son-in-law Rudolf Wucherer (who was married to Linde’s youngest daughter Elisabeth) carried on his life’s work. Two of his four daughters married pastors and the eldest married psychiatrist Dr. Karl Ranke, who also sometimes served on the company’s Supervisory Board.

Carl von Linde died in 1934 at the age of 92. Over the course of his life he was awarded three honorary Doctorates, the Bavarian crown achievement medal, and was honored with elevation to personal nobility status among many other distinguishing honors.

Linde AG is a manufacturer of refrigeration technology and other chemical products headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany. The company has annual revenues of $12.2 billion and 47,000 employees (2004). In 1878, Carl von Linde (a German engineer who developed the basics of modern refrigeration technology) put all put his efforts into the production of refrigerating machinery and founded Lindes Eismaschinen AG.


The Entrepreneur    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of the Refrigerator   from The Great Idea Finder

The Social Shaping of Technology
by Donald MacKenzie / Paperback: 462 pages / Open University Press; 2 edition (June 1, 1999)
The book argues that social scientists have devoted disproportionate attention to the effects of technology on society, and tended to ignore the more fundamental question of what shapes technology in the first place
Linde: History of a Technology Corporation, 1879-2004
by Hans-Liudger Dienel / Hardcover: 352 pages / Palgrave Macmillan (September 4, 2004)
Today, the Linde Group, headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany, is a global technology company dedicated to gas and engineering, material handling and refrigeration. This book examines the history of this company in the context of the history of technology in industry.

Carl von Linde
Despite the tight financial situation in the parson’s large household, von Linde was able to convince his father to allow him to study mechanical engineering at the leading technical university of the time, the Polytechnikum in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Linde Group History
At a sometimes staggering pace and with a great love of experimentation, Carl von Linde created a new industry within just a few decades: refrigeration.
Refrigerator-Great Achievments
Which of the appliances in your home would be the hardest to live without? The most frequent answer to that question in a recent survey was the refrigerator.


How the Refrigerator Got Its Hum
Article by Ruth Schwartz Cowan from The Social Shaping of Technology: How the Refrigerator Got its Hum, Donald MacKenzie, Judy Wajcman, eds. Open University Press, 1985
Chemical Achievers
It was the achievement of Carl von Linde in 1902 to take oxygen from the air itself—and he was soon extracting it in quantities approaching one thousand cubic feet per hour


  • Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the Diesel engine, studied under Carl Linde at the Polytechnic School in Munich
  • The Linde AG, founded by the German scientist-entrepreneur Carl von Linde in 1879 with the name of "Society for Lindes Ice machines" today is the oldest German engineering company still in operation.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised August 19, 2005.

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