Statue of Dr. John Gorrie at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)
Statue of Dr. John Gorrie at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
(Library of Congress)

A South Florida legislator wants to see the statue of Dr. John Gorrie pulled down and removed from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Gorrie, a 19th century resident of Apalachicola, was the inventor of the ice machine and artificial refrigeration. His work and theories paved the way for the development of air conditioning, modern food preservation and the use of temperature control to save the lives of patients with malaria and other fevers. Without the discoveries made possible by this great scientist, modern Florida would never have developed.

The famed scientist, who also lived briefly near present-day Sneads, is one of two Floridians honored at Statuary Hall in the nation’s capital. The other is Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, a St. Augustine native, who served in the U.S. and Confederate armies and was wounded in the service of both.

A move has been underway in the Florida to topple Smith’s statue from its place in Statuary Hall due to his Confederate service (even though Confederate servicemen are considered U.S. veterans under federal law). The effort has now expanded to include Dr. Gorrie, who never served the Confederacy, as well.

Dr. John Gorrie was a noted Florida scientist, physician and inventor.
Dr. John Gorrie was a noted Florida scientist, physician and inventor.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (GOP, Miami) has sponsored House Bill 141 that calls for dragging Smith’s statue from the U.S. Capitol. His bill has now been amended to call for the toppling of Dr. Gorrie’s statue as well.

The proposal has been approved by an 18-1 vote of the House Appropriations Committee and is on its way for a vote in the full house, perhaps as soon as tomorrow (Monday, February 8).

Remarkably, the amendment calling for the tearing down of Dr. Gorrie’s statue comes just months after he was named in 2015 to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. The great scientist’s legacy is also remembered in Apalachicola at the John Gorrie Museum State Park. He is buried across the street from the museum. (See video of some of the Gorrie-related sites in Apalachicola at the bottom of this post).

Apalachicola and Sneads are small cities in Northwest Florida with virtually no power in the Florida Legislature, which appears to be experiencing an unprecedented wave of political correctness. Their connection to Dr. Gorrie, however, provides an opportunity for young people to learn about a great scientist and how the work of one local man changed the world.

An effort to remove the statue of a scientist and school from the U.S. Capitol is especially astounding given the obvious need in Florida to inspire students to take greater interest in math and science. The Miami representative and his cohorts should be ashamed of themselves.

Rep. Brad Drake of Walton County, who represents the Sneads area, has announced that he will oppose House Bill 141. He is due our gratitude for taking a principal stand in the face of a powerful movement.

If you live in Florida, please join me in encouraging your local state representative to vote NO on House Bill 141. You can locate the name and contact information of your representative by visiting Florida House of Representatives.

Here is a short video of some of the places connected to Dr. Gorrie in historic Apalachicola, Florida: