Black History Month is about celebrating the historic accomplishments made by African-Americans. In this spirit, Iceberg Heating & Cooling wanted to highlight some of the great minds who furthered the evolution of HVAC. Their innovations have contributed to the health and comfort of modern society – as well as the progress of business and industry on a global scale. In the spirit of the month, we take a look at some of the individuals who helped shape the HVAC field that we know today.
Lewis Latimer (1848-1928)
Notable Work: Early Air Conditioner
Born to former slaves, Lewis Latimer had a challenging childhood. Although he excelled in school, he left school early to work with his father due to poverty. Latimer’s father eventually left the family before Latimer himself was drafted for the civil war at 15. Once he returned from service, Latimer worked at a patent law firm, where his innovative designs promoted him as head draftsman. Latimer then went on to work with some of the most successful inventors in the world, such as Alexander Graham Bell. What is often forgotten about Latimer is that he invented an early version of the air conditioning unit, which provided the springboard for the more common designs a few years later.
David Nelson Crosthwait Jr. (1898-1976)
Notable Work: Radio City Music Hall’s Heating System
After graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering, David Nelson Crosthwait Jr. obtained more than 39 U.S. patents for inventions related to heating, cooling, and ventilation. Crosthwait consistently improved and modernized boilers, vacuum pumps, refrigeration, and thermostat controls. Aside from his numerous patents, Crosthwait became noteworthy for designing Radio City Music Hall’s heating system, a feat considered impossible without his work and patents.
Alice Parker (Unknown)
Notable Work: Gas-Heating Furnace
Although Alice Parker’s personal history is relatively unknown, it is the opposite when it comes to her invention. In 1919, Alice Parker patented the first gas-heating furnace, which was an immense advancement to the traditional furnace. Instead of burning coal or wood, these furnaces ignited gas to provide warmth, a more suitable energy source for the time. Parker utilized this invention to create a central heating system, which passed hot air through ducts and provided warmth through several areas of a home.
Fredrick McKinley Jones (1893-1961)
Notable Work: Portable Refrigeration
Possibly the most recognizable African-American HVAC pioneer, Fredrick McKinley Jones provided the designs that shaped modern refrigeration and cooling. As a child, Jones was raised by a Catholic priest, and worked his first job as a cleaner, later becoming a mechanic. His venture as a mechanic lasted even after his draft into World War I, as he later used his mechanical ability to design new inventions in cooling and refrigeration. Jones obtained over 60 patents, most of which in refrigeration, although some revolved around x-ray, sound engineering, and mechanical innovations. His breakthrough was a portable cooling unit, designed for carrying perishables across long distances via trucks and railroad cars. By using a roof-mounted cooling system instead of ice, raw food no longer spoiled during long hauls.
African-American HVAC pioneers are the unsung heroes of the industry, and we hope their achievements inspire young minds – and further innovation for years to come. Iceberg Heating & Cooling celebrates their legacies through the dedication and hard work of our licensed and experienced technicians. When you are in need of complete heating and cooling services for your Monroe home, give Iceberg a call at (734) 375-1119 to schedule an appointment and get started!