Refrigerators revolutionized not only the way we eat, but the way food is manufactured and distributed.
Illustration by Yan Nascimbene, National Geographic

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  • On August 8, 1899, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Albert T. Marshall of Brockton, Massachusetts, for his household refrigeration device. It was the first such machine to be patented in the U.S. This and many other innovations in refrigeration revolutionized food distribution, as refrigeration allows perishable food to travel vast distances over a long period of time.

    Throughout history, devising a means to artificially cool products and environments has been important. In prehistoric times, people used ice for this purpose; beginning around the middle of the 18th century, engineers began using machines to create artificial refrigeration. But it wasn't until Marshall's method that a device was deemed worthy of a patent in the United States. The patent helped refrigeration technology become a marker of a modern home in a developed country.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    developed country Noun

    a nation that has high levels of economic activity, health care, and education.

    device Noun

    tool or piece of machinery.

    distribution Noun

    the way something is spread out over an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: distribution
    ice Noun

    water in its solid form.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ice
    patent Noun

    legal right to make or sell an invention.

    prehistoric Adjective

    period of time that occurred before the invention of written records.

    trademark Noun

    word or symbol used by manufacturers to label their products.

    vast Adjective

    huge and spread out.