Emmett & John Gorrie

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Dateline: April 30, 1914.

The scene: Statuary Hall, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC.

Emmett Wilson, accompanied by a delegation from Florida, dedicates and unveils the statue of Dr. John Gorrie, the inventor of artificial refrigeration. Gorrie was, according to The Pensacola Journal of February 1, 1914, a man “memorialized in every ton of ice that is manufactured.”

The story of John Gorrie. The dedication speech was given by Emmett Wilson. Source: The Pensacola Journal.

The story of John Gorrie. The dedication speech was given by Emmett Wilson. Source: The Pensacola Journal; Chronicling America.gov

Emmett gave a decent speech, as reported in the May 1, 1914 issue of The Pensacola Journal:

Emmett accepts the statue for the state of Florida. Source: The Pensacola Journal; Chronicling America.gov

Emmett accepts the statue for the state of Florida. Source: The Pensacola Journal; Chronicling America.gov

I call your attention to this particular quote from Emmett’s speech:

"...that posterity has found his worth..." Emmett Wilson, in the dedication speech. Source: The Pensacola Journal; Chronicling America.gov

“…that posterity has found his worth…” Emmett Wilson, in the dedication speech. Source: The Pensacola Journal; Chronicling America.gov

So what, you may ask this fine, chilly morning?

Ironically, Gorrie’s statue may be replaced with a statue of a pinup with a prominent posterior. So much for posterity and things of worth.

Here’s the scoop:

The Florida House of Representatives wants to remove both of Florida’s statues currently in the U.S. Capitol (H.B. 141). The other statue on the chopping block is that of Confederate General Kirby Smith (who was born in Florida but left the state at the age of 12, never to return).

John Gorrie. Source: www.phys.ufl.edu

John Gorrie. Source: http://www.phys.ufl.edu

Gorrie, although born in Nevis, spent almost his entire life in Florida, a country doctor working to help the sick, and to alleviate the suffering of yellow fever victims through his primitive refrigeration experiments. He wasn’t altogether successful with his invention, but his experiments were the foundation for the refrigeration systems we have today.

Those under consideration include Carl Hiassen, Zora Neale Hurston, Chief Osceola and (wait for it), pinup model and photographer Bunnie Yeager.

Personally, I understand (and support) the removal of the Confederate general for any of those under consideration, especially Hurston. Maybe even Yeager. I have nothing against Yeager, by the way.

But Gorrie is different. He made a difference for a lot of people, and he didn’t live to see the impact that his invention had on all of us today. Think about that — maybe it’s not such a big deal right now in frigid February, but you might reconsider in July and August, when it is 100 degrees outside, and your AC is on the fritz.


If you are interested in contacting members of the Florida House to stop the removal of Gorrie’s statue, you can contact representatives at this link.

 

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