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Frederick McKinley Jones
File:Frederick McKinley Jones.png
Born (1893-05-17)17 May 1893
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died 21 February 1961(1961-02-21) (aged 67)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17, 1893 – February 21, 1961) was an American inventor, entrepreneur, winner of the National Medal of Technology, and an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[1] His innovations in refrigeration brought great improvement to the long-haul transportation of perishable goods.[2] He co-founded Thermo King.[1]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 17, 1893.[2] After he was virtually orphaned at the age of seven, he was raised by a priest at a Catholic rectory in Cincinnati.[3] Jones left school after 6th grade and left the rectory to return to Cincinnati at age 11, where he got a job first as a cleaning boy and by age 14 he was working as an automobile mechanic. He boosted his natural mechanical ability and inventive mind with independent reading and study and the willingness to seek new pastures in his search for advancement, against the odds.[3]

Career[edit | edit source]

In 1912, Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota, where he worked as a mechanic on a 50,000-acre (200 km2) farm. After service with the U.S. Army in World War I, Jones returned to Hallock; while employed as a mechanic, Jones taught himself electronics and built a transmitter for the town's new radio station. He also invented a device to combine sound with motion pictures. This attracted the attention of Joseph A. Numero of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who hired Jones in 1930 to improve the sound equipment made by his firm, Cinema Supplies Inc.

Refrigeration[edit | edit source]

Around 1938, Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food,[3] and received a patent for it on July 12, 1940.[4] Numero sold his movie sound equipment business to RCA and formed a new company in partnership with Jones, the U.S. Thermo Control Company (later the Thermo King Corporation) which became a $3 million business by 1949. Portable cooling units designed by Jones were especially important during World War II, preserving blood, medicine, and food for use at army hospitals and on open battlefields.

Distinctions and honors[edit | edit source]

During his life, Jones was awarded 61 patents. Forty were for refrigeration equipment, while others went for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines.

  • In 1944, Jones became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers.
  • 1950s era consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bureau of Standards.[3]
  • 1953 Merit Award, Phyllis Wheatley Auxiliary, "for outstanding achievements which serve as an inspiration to youth."
  • In 1977, he was posthumously inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame.[3]
  • In 1991, the National Medal of Technology was awarded to Joseph A. Numero and Frederick M. Jones. President George Bush presented the awards posthumously to their widows at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Jones was the first African American to receive the award.[3]
  • In the March 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Truck magazine, editor Tom Berg dubbed Jones "The King of Cool", and wrote that his "technological breakthrough redefined the global marketplace, with cultural reverberations felt from the world's largest cities to its most isolated villages."[3]

Death[edit | edit source]

He died of lung cancer in Minneapolis in 1961.[3]

Patents[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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