For a century, scientists had known that you could make it [a packing ship] artificially colder by compressing some gases into liquids, then letting the liquid absorb heat as it evaporated again.
But commercially successful applications remained elusive. Every day food such as banana’s became a delicacy as the overseas transportation of the fruit proved unsuccessful with the journey exceeding the shelf life.
Argentina’s government even offered a prize to anyone who could keep its beef cold enough for long enough to export it overseas!
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Article from the BBC’s World Service, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy.