These Inventors Revolutionized Modern Heating and Cooling
February is Black History Month, and there’s no shortage of Black figures who have impacted America and the world through their strength, resilience, brilliance, and innovation. Looking at any industry, it’s not hard to find Black pioneers on the cutting edge of invention. And the HVAC industry is no exception. In fact, the industry would not be what it is today without the contributions of people like David Crosthwait, Alice Parker, and Lewis Latimer, to name a few. So read on to learn how these three people have touched the lives of billions through their innovations in heating and cooling.
David Nelson Crosthwait, Jr. accomplished much in his life. He was an inventor, writer, and engineer. Born in 1898, Crosthwait went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. He graduated at the top of his class in 1913 and later earned a master's degree. He specialized in heating and cooling. His impact on the industry is immeasurable, from ventilation and central air conditioning to heat transfer and device design.
During his career, he designed temperature regulation devices, vacuum pumps, and heating devices. He also worked to bring heat to iconic New York City buildings, including Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. He obtained 80 international patents and over 35 U.S. patents during his career. David Crosthwait was the first African American to be honored as a fellow of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers.
Alice H. Parker
Very little is known about African-American inventor Alice H. Parker. As recently as 2022, a reporter found that even the picture often attributed to Parker was of a light-complected woman of the same name born several years after Alice H. Parker filed her design patent. There is currently no known picture of the woman who paved the way for the modern heating system still in use today. Even her date of birth is uncertain. The information available points to a birth sometime after the Civil War and before the turn of the 20th century.
Parker reportedly decided to design a new furnace when her home’s fireplace proved inadequate for heating her home. This is verified by a U.S. Patent filed in December 1919. Her design, which implemented natural gas and ductwork for heating homes more effectively, was never used commercially. But this doesn’t mean the gas furnace design didn’t have a massive impact. It is considered a groundbreaking design that directly influenced the creation of central heating systems used in homes all around the world today.
Lewis Howard Latimer was an African-American inventor born in 1848. His inventions impacted not only the HVAC industry but also many other industries. He designed an improved process for making carbon filaments used in light bulbs. He also designed a toilet system for train cars. But his impact on the HVAC industry cannot be overstated.
Latimer designed a precursor to the modern air conditioning system when he invented an evaporative air conditioner. But it wasn’t just for cooling rooms. It was also designed to help disinfect their air — improving indoor air quality. This apparatus was used in hospitals to cool and reduce dust in operating theaters. He was a brilliant and prolific inventor who was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
About Elite Comfort Systems
Elite Comfort Systems has proudly served the community of Brentwood, CA, and the surrounding areas since 2008. They offer 24/7 emergency service, transparent pricing, and easy scheduling. Call them today for air quality, AC, or heating services in Brentwood, CA.
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