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African American HVAC Inventors and Pioneers

Anyone who’s had to survive Texas weather knows that central heating and air conditioning is the greatest thing since sliced bread. In celebration of Black History Month, we’re proud to spotlight African American contributors who helped develop modern heating and cooling technologies.

Lewis Latimer: Engineer, Inventor, and Patent Draftsmen

Lewis Latimer (1848-1928) worked with notable inventors of the age (like Edison and Bell) and became an inventor in his own right, despite a difficult childhood and adolescence. Although he had no formal education, Latimer taught himself mechanical drawing and drafting while working as an office boy at a patent law firm. The partners were impressed with his talent and promoted him.

Latimer went on to assist many inventors and create his own designs, like an improved railroad car bathroom. Among his several achievements, Latimer invented an evaporative air conditioning unit that would pave the way for future air conditioning designs.

Frederick McKinley Jones: Mechanic-Turned-Entrepreneur

Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) combined the knowledge he picked up as a mechanic with rigorous reading and self-teaching. The results were several inventions and over 60 patents for designs involving refrigeration, radio, x-rays, sound engineering, and more.

Jones is most famous for inventing a portable air-cooling unit for trucks, which became essential for transporting food, medicine, blood, and other perishables over long distances. The design was a game-changer, especially during WWII.

David Nelson Crosthwait, Jr.: HVAC Engineer and Inventor

David Nelson Crosthwait, Jr. (1898-1976) is most notable for creating the heating systems in New York’s massive Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. Among these famous achievements, Crosthwait also invented devices to enhance heating systems in big buildings, including a boiler, a thermostat control, and a vacuum pump. Throughout his lifetime, Crosthwait obtained 39 U.S. patents and 80 international patents.

Alice Parker: Inventor of the Central Gas-Heating Furnace for Homes

A lot less is known about Alice Parker (1885-?), but what we do know is that her invention was the springboard for modern, residential furnace designs.

Parker sought to create a furnace that used gas for fuel instead of wood or coal, which would make heating a home less labor-intensive and more cost-effective. Parker’s design also involved air ducts that would help distribute warm air in several home zones instead of one area. Parker’s patent was granted in 1919.

At Tom's Mechanical, Inc., we’re giving a proud salute to these heating and cooling inventors and pioneers! For more HVAC information, visit our blog, and if you need any assistance with your heater or AC, give us a call at (972) 388-3669.