Time Essay: The Great American Cooling Machine

"The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air conditioning—and America leads the way." So wrote British Scholar-Politician S.F. Markham 32 years ago when a modern cooling system was still an exotic luxury. In a century that has yielded such treasures as the electric knife, spray-on deodorant and disposable diapers, anybody might question whether air conditioning is the supreme gift. There is not a whiff of doubt, however, that America is far out front in its use. As a matter of lopsided fact, the U.S. today, with a mere 5%...

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