Six of History’s Smartest, Weirdest and Most Interesting Inventions for Beating the Heat

From a bicycle mister to ice energy, here are a few innovative ways for cooling down

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History holds this patent model for a Gorrie ice machine, the first mechanical refrigeration or ice-making machine the U.S. Patent Office patented. (National Museum of American History)

This year is set to be the hottest on record, surpassing even the average global temperature of last year, which climate researchers considered to be the highest in more than 4,000 years. Indoor air conditioning has become fairly ubiquitous in the United States—some 87 percent in this country have either central or window A/C units. But it hasn't always been this way. And for much of the world, it's still not—in Mexico, for example, only 13 percent of the population lives with air conditioning. But nothing sparks innovation, it seems, quite like sitting around feeling miserable. Here are a handful of the wildest, most interesting innovations in cooling down. 

Ventilating Hats

A gentleman should be able to wear full evening dress without his head getting hot, right? A Victorian era design called the “bona fide ventilating hat,” registered under Britain’s 1843 Utility Designs Act, is exactly what it sounds like: a traditional black topper with a mesh-covered porthole to allow air to flow across the wearer’s head. As goofy as they sound, ventilated hat designs have been showing up at patent offices on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. Pictured above is a more modern version.


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