Photo of Joseph A. Numero

Joseph A. Numero

  • 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.

In the summer of 1938, Joseph Numero was out with a friend in the shipping industry, who received a disturbing call. “News came in, right around the time that they were playing golf, that [Numero’s friend] had just lost a whole carload of chickens,” explained refrigeration historian Bern Nagengast in his book Heat and Cold: Mastering the Great Indoors. “The trip took longer than it was supposed to, and the chickens overheated.”

Numero took the problem to his partner and engineer, Frederick McKinley Jones, and together they developed and marketed the Thermo King– the world’s first automatic refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars. Numero founded the Thermo King Corporation in 1937, and he and Jones revolutionized the shipping and grocery industries.

Grocery chains were able to import and export products that previously could only have been shipped as canned goods. As a result, the frozen food industry was born and for the first time consumers could enjoy fresh foods from around the globe.

By Jen Santisi