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Black Inventors That Helped the Heating and Cooling Industry

Black History Month is a time to recognize those who have historically contributed to modern society that may not have gotten the praise they deserved. The truth is that even while fighting prejudice, black inventors have made contributions to the comforts and technologies that we all enjoy today. This year for Black History Month, local HVAC technicians want to share some of the black inventors that helped pave the way for climate-controlled homes and businesses. Here are three of the biggest contributors to the modern dwelling and a little about how their inventions helped shape the modern world. 

David Crosthwait

davidDavid Crosthwait was born in Nashville in 1898 and grew up in Kansas City. He received his bachelor's and master's of engineering degrees at Purdue in 1920. Crosthwait specializes in ventilation and central heating, and air conditioning systems. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, he contributed greatly to the concept of central heating systems by earning patents on specially-designed systems, thermostats, and vacuum pumps. By the end of his career, he would hold 119 international patents. 

Crosthwait's skills earned him special recognition when he was hired to design heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. After spending some time writing codes and standards for heating and cooling systems, he retired and became a lecturer at Purdue. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1975. 

Alice H. Parker

Alice H. Parker is a mystery. Not much is known about her personal life due in part to poor recordkeeping at the beginning of the 1900s and a society that was prejudiced against women and African Americans. Many articles that reference her work even use pictures that aren't hers. There is even some confusion around her attendance at Howard University, the school where she became trained as an engineer. 

Despite the confusion around Alice H. Parker, it is clear that she both existed and contributed to modern heating systems. It's probably safe to assume she was also tired of constantly stoking wood or coal fires to keep her New Jersey home warm. Until 1919, natural gas was used solely for lighting. Few people had envisioned it as a means of heating the home. Parker patented a furnace design that used ductwork and zone control, which are still widely used today. 

Lewis Latimer

lewisLewis Latimer was one of the most accomplished men of the 20th century, even while living in a society that didn't want to see him achieve. Born to escaped slaves in 1848, Latimer served in the Union Navy until he was discharged in 1865. He started work in a law office, where he learned to draft patent drawings. Throughout his career, he worked with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, drafting patents for the telephone and writing books about electric lighting and lightbulbs. 

Among his accomplishments are a handful of his patents, including one for a modern-day evaporative cooler. He was the first black man invited to become one of Edison's Pioneers. He was a published poet and played the violin in his spare time. 

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