James Harrison

1816 - 1893

Refrigeration pioneer, journalist and Australian politician. Born in Bonhill (West Dunbartonshire), the son of a fisherman, Harrison trained as a printer in Glasgow, where he was able to attend Anderson's University and the Glasgow Mechanics' Institution. He working in London for two years before leaving for Australia in 1837. He arrived in Sydney, but moved to Melbourne two years later, where worked as a printer and journalist with various newspapers. In 1840, he founded the Geelong Advertiser, the first newspaper in that city. Harrison joined the town council in 1850 and represented Geelong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly (1854-60). He lost a libel case and had to sell his newspaper. He also founded the Geelong Almanac (1850) and the Geelong Register in 1865. Meantime, he designed an ice-making machine using compressed ether which he was able to patent. His machine was producing 3000 kg ((6600 lb) of ice per day when it began operating in 1854.

He won a gold medal at the Melbourne Exhibition by proving that meat kept frozen for months remained perfectly edible, but an experiment with sending refrigerated beef to the UK in 1873 failed. However, he remained in Britain for nineteen years, patenting his refrigerated ship chambers and improving his earlier patents.

Harrison returned to Geelong, where he died. He is remembered in Australia by a plaque in Melbourne, a bridge over the Barwon River, a museum and the James Harrison Medal of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating.

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