IOR double anniversary event celebrates the history of ammonia vapour compression refrigeration

David Boyle

Two top cooling experts will present innovative research on the history of ammonia vapour compression at a webinar hosted by the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) to commemorate its 123rd year.

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the world’s first ammonia refrigeration system using vapour compression and discover the exciting story surrounding the developments that spawned the widespread use of one of the most climate-friendly refrigerants at an informative online webinar organised by the Institute of Refrigeration on 3rd November at 4:30 pm.

The talk will be presented by Dr Andy Pearson, Group Managing Director of Star Refrigeration and American Society of Mechanical ‘Engineer-Historian’ award winner, Bernard A. Nagengast, and is based on the pair’s co-authored paper that examines the timeline of ammonia refrigeration compression.

Their presentation will highlight the contribution of the early pioneers of ammonia refrigeration compression during the 1800s and demystify some of the generally accepted assumptions about the origins of the technology and its successful commercialisation.

Spotlighting the life, sacrifices, and sheer determination of inventors such as David Boyle of the Boyle Ice Machine company, to whom the commercial success of ice machines based on the compression of ammonia vapour is attributed, the event will track the history of ammonia vapour compression technology from its inception in the 1870s.

Attendees are expected to enjoy a showcase of inspiring developments and famous firsts attained by precursors like Francis De Coppet, who has been credited with the construction of the first leak-tight ammonia compressor, or Charles Tellier, the first person to run an ammonia compressor for refrigeration.

Evaluating the successes and blunders in ammonia vapour compression’s history offers the opportunity to understand the significant technical developments that were required to make ammonia compression cooling systems safe, efficient and reliable to ultimately change the face of modern refrigeration. More recent advancements in ammonia refrigeration technology, along with international pressure for more environmentally friendly refrigeration alternatives in response to the warming crisis, have further accelerated the adoption of ammonia systems due to its high efficiency and proven performance over the last centuries.

Dr Andy Pearson, said “ I am delighted to present this paper to commemorate the Institute’s 123rd anniversary. The extensive use of ammonia as a refrigerant is linked to the development of vapour compression as the preferred method of  achieving mechanical refrigeration. As well as crediting the early pioneers of the invention of ammonia refrigeration systems using vapour compression, it is important to recognise the vital role they play on each successive generation of technological advances to date.”

Ammonia is carbon neutral and still the most efficient refrigerant known to man. Being a top refrigerant choice for years, especially in the temperature controlled storage and food and drinks manufacturing sectors, the historic double anniversary event provides a timely platform to examine this development and amplify its exciting history, particularly as the world moves closer to Net Zero.

Dr Andy Pearson: Group Managing Director of Star Refrigeration is a past president of the Institute of Refrigeration and past chairman of the Institute of Refrigeration’s Technical Committee. He has served two terms as a director of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration and is a member of the Refrigeration Safety Technical Committees for the British Standards Institute (BSI), the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Bernard A. Nagengast is a consulting engineer and the winner of the 2020 Engineer-Historian Award presented by the  American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is a co-author of the Book “Adventures in Heat and Cold: Men and Women who Made Your lives Better”.  He is also an ASHRAE Distinguished Life Member.

The ammonia historical Techtalk is being hosted by the Institute of Refrigeration, which was originally founded in December 1899, 123 years ago. The IOR was formerly known as the Cold Storage and Ice Association, in reference to the early focus of the UK refrigeration industry, which was based on ice imports.

Those interested in attending and celebrating the 150th anniversary of the world’s first ammonia refrigeration system to use vapour compression can register at

To download the paper ‘Celebrating 150 Years of Ammonia Refrigeration – the life and times of David Boyle’ by Dr Andy Pearson and Bernard A. Nagengast visit

IOR double anniversary event celebrates the history of ammonia vapour compression refrigeration

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