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FREDERICK M. JONES (1893-1961)
Frederick McKinley Jones applied the mechanical experience he gained at work and at war to revolutionize two industries: cinema and refrigeration.
Born in Cincinnati, Jones learned mechanics and electronics more from personal experience than from textbooks. After serving in France in World War I, he worked as a garage mechanic; here he conceived the self-starting gas motor that he later patented (1943).
In the 1920s, Jones moved to Minneapolis, and began working for Joseph Numero, who sold equipment for the nascent movie industry. Here, Jones invented a box-office device that automatically distributed tickets and change to customers (patented 1939). More importantly, he invented the first process that enabled movie projectors to play back recorded sound---making "talking pictures" possible.
Driving on a hot summer night in 1937, Jones resolved to invent air conditioning for cars and trucks. The potential benefit was not just passenger comfort: as Jones soon found out, truckers who transported meat and produce across the country were continually frustrated because the ice they relied on would melt, causing the food to spoil.
Jones soon built a refrigeration unit for trucks, which was compact and shock-proof, as well as automatic---it used his own self-starting motor (patented 1949). Jones and Numero founded a company to market their products, which soon included systems for trains and ships as well as trucks. That company, Thermo King, is still thriving today. Jones' system continues to allow a greater number of Americans to eat a wider array of foods, whatever the time of year.
During World War II, Jones went on to design portable refrigeration units for military camps---most importantly, for storing blood. He also invented a portable X-ray machine. All in all, Frederick Jones earned over 60 patents; and his inventions made real improvements to the life and leisure we enjoy today.