Who created the ice pack?

Emanuele Mortarotti in
20 December 2018

Today we are going to find out about the origins of one of our top products: the ice pack, as we named it. When and by whom was it invented? What was it originally for?

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New weekly appointment with the news of Dispotech, your disposable excellence. Today we are going to find out about the origins of one of our top products: the ice pack, as we named it. When and by whom was it invented? What was it originally for? Let's find out together, through an article published in the authoritative New York Times Magazine.

Doctors understood - and used - the many beneficial effects of the cold since ancient times. Hippocrates himself wrote that cold water should be applied “where there is haemorrhage, or if one is expected, in a patient, at any moment”. During the French army’s withdrawal from Russia in 1812, Napoleon’s surgeon, Dominique Jean Larrey, used ice and snow to anaesthetise soldiers before amputations.

During the middle of the same century, Americans kept ice in special containers. When the actual refrigeration system was born, around the 1920s, people began to experiment with it, replacing natural ice. In August 1948, Popular Science magazine wrote about the Hot-R-Cold Pak, in its section dedicated to the newest products on the market, describing it as a "small bag the size of a wallet containing a special liquid that can stay hot or cold for a long time".  In the following decades interesting variants of the product were invented - some containing alcohol that cooled down at will! - and with the most bizarre shapes. But it was only in 1971 that Jacob Spencer, a pharmacist and salesman for Pfizer of Long Island, New York, wrote that a patient had been treated with "a bag containing a gel, heated or cooled as needed, to reduce aching". Unlike the first, instant ice pack - patented in 1959 by Albert A. Robbins and designed only to keep food and drinks cool - Dr Spencer's ice-pack was designed to comfortably adapt to the human body. And, most importantly, to be reused multiple times.

“He always visited hospitals and talked to doctors and nurses about putting ice in gloves and plastic bags," recounts his nephew Josh Nazarieh, now vice president of Nortech, the company founded by Mr. Spencer. "Every time, though, it was a mess: liquid everywhere. So, my grandfather thought: "There must be a better way to do this. He tried and tested hundreds of formulas until he was able to create his own gel as well as giving it a visually appealing look.”

Today, the medical ice pack is used to treat a wide range of pain and discomfort - from joint pain to a potential heat stroke. “A reusable ice pack can be cooled to the desired temperature and does not necessarily need a freezer," says Dr. Bret Nicks, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, North Carolina. “It is a very valuable and indispensable object to have in every home. But if you don't have one, don't worry! You can fall back on a great classic, if you need to cool down a little trauma: a bag of frozen vegetables. This option can be a temporary solution," concludes the doctor.


You see? The chemical ice pack has a history stretching way back in time and it's come a long way to become what it is today! And you, our readers, don't be left without it: contact Dispotech for more information about Dispo Gel, Dispo Ice and all our exclusive hot/cold line!

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