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The refrigerator may seem mundane nowadays, but it is one of the wonders of twentieth-century science--lifesaver, food preserver, social liberator. Part historical narrative, part scientific decoder, Chilled looks at early efforts to harness the cold at the ice pits of Persia (Iranians still call their fridges the "ice pit") and ice harvests on the Regents Canal. As people learned more about what cold actually was, scientists invented machines for producing it on demand. The discovery of refrigeration and its applications features a cast of characters that includes the Ice King of Boston, Galileo, Francis Bacon, an expert on gnomes, a magician who chilled a cathedral, a Renaissance duke addicted to iced eggnog, and a Bavarian nobleman from New England.
Refrigeration technology has been crucial in some of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last one hundred years, from the discovery of superconductors to the search for the Higgs boson. Refrigeration is needed to make soap, store penicillin, and without it, in vitro fertilization would be impossible. And the fridge will still be pulling the strings behind the scenes as teleporters and intelligent-computer brains turn our science-fiction vision of the future into fact.