The Horrifying Origins of the Thermostat

Just in time for Halloween, we’re exploring the dark history (and hobbies) of the man credited with the conception of modern-day heating and cooling!

The Thermostat is Born

Born in 1778, Andrew Ure is credited with the invention of the bi-metallic thermostat--though he didn’t physically create a prototype of the thermostat, his description paved the way for modern temperature regulation.

Before this invention, the temperature was regulated by sense--if it felt cold, you simply had to add more coal or wood to the fire in your home or place of business. The bi-metallic thermostat was a new way to measure the temperature in a room. The bi-metallic materials it was made from would bend as the temperature changed, indicating that the level of heat needed to be adjusted.

Doing any quick search on Andrew Ure will bring up many topics, inventions, and published works. But one stands out from the rest—the theory that some of Ure’s experiments inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.

The Mad Doctor

While the invention of the bi-metallic is one of many areas Ure dabbled in, none is quite as interesting or horrific as his experiments in reanimating corpses. There aren’t many reports about what exactly his experiments were attempting to prove, so no one can say for sure that he was attempting to bring the dead back to life, but Ure’s experiments involved using electrical shocks and other means of stimulation to force corpses to perform acts of breathing or spastic movement.

An 1867 engraving of Ure’s experiments courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
An 1867 engraving of Ure’s experiments courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

These experiments were often carried out in front of a crowd to ‘expand the horizons of the city’s working men’, but all it really did was terrify the local population and convince people of witchcraft. Ure eventually gave up on his morbid experiments and turned to less gruesome pursuits.

If this spooky story gave you the chills, just remember—it’s also thanks to Andrew Ure that we have the ability to turn up the temperature in our homes without shoveling coal onto a fire! Thermostats have come a long way since Ure’s invention, but even smart and wifi connected devices sometimes malfunction. If your thermostat needs to be adjusted or tested, contact the pros at Grapids Heating & Cooling, Inc.. (We’re pretty sure none of our techs have a history of reanimating corpses.)