David Crosthwait was an African-American mechanical and electrical engineer, inventor, and writer. He was born in the city of Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Once he completed high school he received a Bachelor of Science (1913) and a Masters of Engineering (1920) from Purdue University. He was granted an honorary doctoral degree in 1975.
Crosthwait’s expertise was on air ventilation, central air conditioning, and heat transfer systems. With this knowledge he created many different heating systems, refrigeration methods, temperature regulating devices, and vacuum pumps. For these inventions he holds 39 United States patents, as well as 80 international patents. In the 1920s and 1930s Crosthwait invented a vacuum pump, a boiler, and a thermostat control, all for more effective heating systems for larger buildings. Some of his greatest accomplishments were for creating the heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
He later wrote an instruction manual and guides for heating and cooling with water and guides, standards, and codes that dealt with heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems.