Modern Living: Blow, Cool Air

Air conditioning celebrated the 60th year of its existence last week in its own peculiar, purring style. No fuss, just cool and quiet.

Men have long made desperate attempts to keep cool. In the summer of A.D. 221, Roman Emperor Heliogabalus sent slaves into the mountains for snow to cool his gardens. Sweltering men have produced bizarre notions too: one 19th century inventor drew a fanciful suit of Venetian blinds, including a Venetian-blind hat. Various theaters and the Hungarian Parliament tried blowing air over massive amounts of ice.

Gasping Leviathans. But modern air conditioning began with the discovery that cooling was not...

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