Last night I was watching yet another re-run of the film Independence Day. It’s complete bunk, of course, a piece of harmless escapism in which America saves the world from aliens bent on annihilating the human race. And why not? After all, it’s America’s film industry, they know what sells and this is science fiction.
Less palatable, of course, is Hollywood’s much-criticised rewriting of history. So often, well-documented historical fact is manipulated by a scriptwriter with a cynical US view of what will ensure box office success.
While we yearn for refrigeration to receive the recognition it deserves, we can probably be thankful that Hollywood has never got its teeth into that particular topic.
Actually, it doesn’t need to, the good old British Broadcasting Corporation has done the job on its behalf.
Amazingly, the BBC, the UK’s national tv broadcaster, has contrived to publish a history of refrigeration on its website which ignores the contribution of virtually any individual who was not born under the Stars and Stripes. It is so US-biased it would have made a great script for a Cecil B DeMille film, except that the legendary director might have wondered why so many had been removed from the cast of thousands.
Creating Cold is described by the BBC as “the chilling story of men who changed the planet forever – by dropping the temperature”. The only chilling thing about it is the US-bias in the content. This is really the story of how US men changed the US forever.
There’s no mention of Scottish professor William Cullen, the first to design a small refrigerating machine, or of Michael Faraday’s work with ammonia. Brit James Harrison who patented the first vapour compression system is ignored and, possibly worst of all, the great German inventor Carl von Linde receives not a single mention. There are a host of other glaring omissions that I will leave others with a far better grip on refrigeration history to fume over.
It’s not just that the article omits so many facts and significant milestones, it’s so US-biased you would think they were the only nation involved. The article rambles on about American efforts to harvest, transport and store natural ice, as if it was the only nation doing so.
If written by an American, it might be understandable – short on historical fact but a reasonable, if blinkered, view of the development of refrigeration in America. But this was written by the BBC.
Don’t get me wrong, the US was hugely influential in the development of refrigeration but so were other nations and nationalities.
Meanwhile, in Grimsby in the north east of England, there still stands, albeit rapidly deteriorating, a building that was once the largest ice factory in the world. And it still houses some historic and unique refrigeration equipment manufactured by what was arguably at the time possibly the world’s greatest refrigeration company. A small group of individuals – presumably BBC licence payers – are desperately trying to save this unique piece of refrigeration history from oblivion. The BBC has even been there. Did they learn nothing?
Some might argue that Independence Day has more historically accurate content.