Photo of Frederick McKinley Jones

Frederick McKinley Jones

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Manufacturing
For their development of refrigeration technology for trucks, trailers, boxcars, ships and planes which revolutionized the preservation and distribution of food and other perishables; and for their development of a worldwide sales and service network.

Frederick McKinley Jones had an interest in mechanical work from an early age and read extensively on the subject, educating himself in his spare time. Jones is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, at the request of entrepreneur and partner Joseph Numero.

Before Jones’ invention, the only way to keep food cool in trucks was to load them with ice. He was given the task of developing a device that would allow large trucks to transport perishable products without spoiling. Jones set to work and his automatic refrigeration system, and transformed the shipping and grocery businesses. Grocery chains were able to import and export frozen products from around the world.

Over the course of his career, Jones received more than 60 patents. While the majority pertained to refrigeration technologies, others included portable X-ray machines, engines, an automatic ticket-dispensing machine to be used at movie theaters and sound equipment.

Jones was awarded the National Medal of Technology, posthumously, by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

By Jen Santisi