How Cool Is This

In honor of Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, celebrated on November 15th, you may want to know how your refrigerator operates.

Early Twentieth Century Refrigerator

The one-millionth Frigidaire refrigerator is proudly displayed as it comes off the assembly line in Dayton, Ohio, in 1929. Photograph: AP


Refrigerators are a modern invention. Until the advent of wide-scale electricity, keeping food cold had been a challenge for civilizations. Even as late as the 1800s, ice continued to be the major method for cooling. However, in 1848, Alexander Twining experimented with vapor-compression refrigeration allowing mechanical cooling to be applied in the meat packing and brewing manufacturing industries from the 1870s through the 1890s. Then in 1895, a German engineer, Carol von Linde, designed a process for the mass-scale production of domestic operating cooling units.1 By 1921, the first Frigidaire came off an assembly line at the Delco Light Plant of General Motors. That same year, 5,000 refrigerators were manufactured for home use.2

Einstein refrigerator patent image

Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard. Refrigeration. U.S. Patent 1,781,541, filed December 16, 1927, issued November 11, 1930 [6]


All refrigerator models work on the same principle: as the gas phase of matter expands, it takes up heat from the environment and converts the thermal energy to other forms of energy. This is called the Carnot cycle.3 In refrigerators, a gas is compressed and under pressure is changed to liquid. A compressor forces the liquid, or coolant, through a series of tubes or coils where it vaporizes, removing heat from the surrounding environment (i.e., from inside the refrigerator). A pump that is run by a motor sucks up the warmed gas, compresses it into liquid again, and sends it to the condenser for another bout of cooling.4 In the early twentieth century, refrigerators used methyl chloride, sulphur dioxide, or ammonia gas, all of which are toxic and caused several injuries and fatalities when leaked into homes.

Einstein and Szilard

Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard

For this reason, Albert Einstein had the idea to improve its safety. In 1926, he partnered with Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-American physicist, who had published his dissertation on thermodynamics and had knowledge of patent engineering. Together they set out to improve the mechanical compressors and eliminate the toxic gases. “The Einstein-Szilard fridge used pressurized ammonia, butane and water… and no moving parts — thereby eliminating the possibility of seal failure…One of the components the two physicists designed for their refrigerator was the Einstein-Szilard electromagnetic pump, which had no moving parts, relying instead on generating an electromagnetic field by running alternating current through coils. The field moved a liquid metal, and the metal, in turn, served as a piston and compressed a refrigerant.”5

In 1930, freon was introduced as an economically favored refrigerant gas. However, with environmental concerns over climate change and the impact of freon and other chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer, it maybe time for another reinvention. “Green refrigeration” is being explored. Two groups in the UK, Malcom McCullough of Oxford, is designing a solar-powered fridge as an alternative energy source, and Camfridge Ltd, in Cambridge, is researching gas-free alternatives.Also, a team of Canadian-Bulgarian researchers are looking into magnetic cooling.8

So as you toss out the carton of milk which expired two weeks ago, think how you might improve upon Einstein’s cooling appliance.


1. McCorquodale, Duncan, et al, editors. Inventors and Inventions. London : Black Dog, 2009. p. 32 Engineering Library FOLIO T48 .I58 2009

2. Langone, John. How Things Work: Everyday technology explained. Washington D.C. : National Georgraphic Society, 2006, pages 18 – 19. Engineering Library T47 .L2923 2006

3. The Carnot Cycle (Source: MIT)

4. Wearing, Judy. Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-On-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors. Toronto : ECW Press, 2009, pages 231 – 232 Engineering Library T47 .W42 2009

5. The Story of Einstein’s Refrigerator by Jennifer Ouellette, December 5, 2010

6. Einstein, Albert and Szilard, Leo. Refrigeration. U.S. Patent 1,781,541, filed December 16, 1927, issued November 11, 1930. (Source: Google Patents)

7. Wearing, Judy. Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-On-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors. Toronto : ECW Press, 2009. pages 239 - 240. Engineering Library T47 .W42 2009

8. Magnetic Cooling Enables Efficient, ‘Green’ Refrigeration, June 19, 2014. (Source:

9. Standard Specification for Reach-in Refrigerators, Freezers, Combination Refrigerator/Freezers, and Thaw Cabinets. ASTM F2520-05 (2012) (Source: ASTM International)

10. Pham, Hung. Lower-GWP Refrigerants in Refrigeration. ASHRAE-D-ANRC12-17. (Source: TechStreet)

11. Energy-Efficient Refrigerator Prototype Test Results [microform]. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric and Indoor Air. EPA-430-R-94-011, June 1994. Main Media Collection Microfiche EP 4.2:R 25/3

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Scopus Workshop

Have you tried Scopus, our new database? The UI Libraries provide free access to Scopus, an excellent multidisciplinary citation database. Join us for a Scopus Workshop and learn advanced techniques that will help you conduct your research more efficiently and effectively.

Scopus Workshop

Wed, Nov 19, 12:30-1:20

Sciences Library 3rd floor

In this workshop you will learn how to:

  • Access Scopus off-campus.
  • Use refine options to retrieve more relevant search results.
  • Save citations to RefWorks/EndNote.
  • Set up alerts and find full-text.
  • Get help from a librarian when you need it.


This workshop is free and open to all UI students, faculty and staff. There is no need to register. If you have any questions, please contact Sara Scheib at or (319) 335-3024.


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DIY History celebrates 50,000th transcription!


As DIY History, the University of Iowa’s transcription crowdsourcing site, has inched toward its 50,000th submission, we’ve been looking forward to reaching such an amazing milestone — hence the queued-up cake gif.

But as it turned out, we weren’t quite prepared for how it went down today. On the heels of some high-profile attention from BuzzFeed and NBC News in October, DIY History just hit the big time with a Tumblr post from Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant fame, which was rebloggged by John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars and many other things. Once a portion of their millions of devoted followers visited our site, the 50K achievement was immediately unlocked — along with a fair amount of panic among library staff about insufficient server bandwith and a dearth of untranscribed pages (plus Colleen wept with joy) (although low threshold)(we love you Colleen!).

We are humbled and gratified by the dedication of all our volunteer transcribers — those of you who have just joined us, and those who have been with us from the beginning. Since the Libraries put its first batch of Civil War diaries up in the spring of 2011, you have fought a brave battle against inaccessibility and illegibility, rescuing the first-hand accounts of soldiers, cooks, students, railroad barons, farmers, artists, suffragists, and so many others. In lieu of the celebratory cake we wish we could give you, here is a comprehensive list of the Libraries’ thousands of historic manuscript cake recipes — an unthinkingly time-consuming task pre-crowdsourcing, the compilation of such a list now happens almost instantly, thanks to the magic of fully-searchable transcribed text. Happy baking, and don’t forget to stock up on lard.

While you’re busy with that, we’ll be powering up our scanners to get new content on the site as quickly as possible, so please stop back soon and often. The next 50,000 manuscript pages starts now!

30th Anniversary Benefit Auction: The Anthony Fund

Proceeds from the Conservation Lab’s 30th Anniversary Auction will benefit the William Anthony Conservation Fund. To find out more about the auction, click here.

Biography of William Anthony

William (Bill) Anthony was born November 9, 1926, in Waterford, Ireland, and began his apprenticeship in bookbinding at the age of 16, later working as a journeyman in Ireland and England. In 1965 Bill came to Chicago to work as a fine binder at the Cuneo Press, where he rose to the position of art director.  In 1973, he formed a partnership with Elizabeth Kner and, on her retirement in 1982, continued the business as Anthony & Associates, Bookbinders. While conservation was the mainstay of his business, Bill also worked on edition and fine bindings, and taught apprentices and private students.

In 1984, Bill came to The University of Iowa as the first University Conservator.  He established the Conservation Department in the University’s Main Library, where he and his apprentices worked on rare books from the University collections, including the Nuremburg Chronicle (1493) and Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica (1555).  He also executed fine bindings, most of which are in Special Collections at the UI Main Library.

In the Conservation Department at Iowa, Bill continued to train apprentices and interns, and offered classes to the University community.  A former apprentice from the Chicago days, David Brock, said of Bill that he “molded me gently into a craftsman.”  All those who studied with him – apprentices, interns, students, and casual visitors – could say something similar.  Bill did not like to criticize but he had an idea of excellence and he wanted to move others in that direction.  The esteem in which he was held by his professional colleagues led to his chairing the Standards Committee of the Guild of Bookworkers from 1984 to 1988. Bill’s notable achievements at Iowa include starting the University of Iowa Bookbinding Models Collection and conserving the original constitution of the state of Iowa, which he completed shortly before his death in February 1989.

William Anthony Conservation Fund

The  William Anthony Conservation Fund was established through the generous support of Julie Scott and Jim Fluck, to honor the legacy of Bill Anthony. Since its inception, the Fund has supported a variety of departmental activities, including conservation treatment, equipment purchases, and bringing visiting lecturers to Iowa City.  Some highlights are listed below.

Conservation Rebinding of 18th Century Pamphlets

Paper Case Pamphlets









The  task of rebinding over seventy 18th century pamphlets included two challenges: separating groups of 18th century pamphlets bound in 20th century library bindings and developing a functional, graceful and sympathetic conservation treatment that would facilitate scanning and exhibition.

The treatment included a collation check, surface cleaning, disassembly of gatherings, optional water washing, mending, endpaper production and re-sewing. The covers for the pamphlets used hand made cover paper stock produced here at the University of Iowa. This distinctive paper was especially created to simulate the stocks used for historical paper case work as it provides the type of excellent handling, toughness and color qualities which are so complimentary to such 18th century text papers.

Lecture by Pamela Spitzmueller











Pamela Spitzmueller was the University of Iowa Libraries’ Conservator from 1989 – 1999. Spitzmueller’s lecture, “Books as Physical Objects or How Conserving Damaged Rare Books and Manuscripts Inspired Me to Create New Book Objects” will cover her 35 year career in library conservation and book arts, from Chicago (Newberry Library), Washington, DC (Library of Congress), Iowa City (University of Iowa Library) and Cambridge, MA (Harvard University Library).

She has presented many lectures on historical book structures and created workshops on long and link stitch sewing; girdle books; a multi-quire, wooden-boarded codex from Egypt and most recently a model of a 17th c. printed Almanac for tradesmen with erasable pages.  Pamela is also a retired Paper and Book Intensive Co-director where she has taught many classes.

To give to the William Anthony Conservation Fund, please visit

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Four Million Downloads!

Items in Iowa Research Online have been downloaded more than four million times! This means that scholarship created by University of Iowa faculty, researchers and students is being read around the world. We crossed the three million mark in late January 2014; it is so very exciting to have had such an increase in just over nine months that we are dancing in our cubicles.

ancers at a party at Esther Walls' apartment, New York, N.Y., 1960s

Our theses and dissertation make up over half the use, which is great evidence of the fantastic scholarship done by our graduates. The journals Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and Medieval Feminist Forum each have had two-three hundred thousand downloads. Congratulations to the editors of these journals for producing such quality publications.

Walt Whitman Quarterly Review

If you would like your scholarship in Iowa Research Online, please contact your subject specialist for more information.

Open Access in Geography

Earlier this year, , Liaison/Scholarly Communication Librarian at Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada, lead a presentation called “Shifting Ground: Scholarly Communication in Geography.” It was at the Canadian Association of Geographers meeting in May.  Among the highlights include a discussion on Open Access issues, guidelines for picking journals to publish your work, the problems with metrics to measure scholarly impact, and negotiating your copyright. She her Slides and transcript

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Making the transition from RefWorks to EndNote? Learn how @Hardin Library this fall

As the University of Iowa moves to EndNote as its official citation management solution, we at Hardin are here to help with the transition from RefWorks (or any other tool).  At this quick workshop, you will learn how to collect your citations and bibliographic data and then import it into EndNote.

Our upcoming sessions at Hardin Library, Information Commons East, 2nd floor:
Wednesday, November 12, 2:30-3pm

Thursday, November 20, 10:30-11am

Tuesday, December 9, 9:30-10am

Register online:

No time for class? Just need a little help?  See our guide:

endnote graphic

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PTSD Exhibit at Hardin through December

image of veterans

Image from

Hardin Library for the Health Sciences has an exhibit on post traumatic stress disorder up through December.  The exhibit includes a time-line of the history of PTSD from 2000 BC-present, and resources for patients or clinicians. AboutFace from the Veteran’s Administration has videos available with personal stories from veterans with PTSD.

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