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David Crosthwait was born in Nashville, Tennessee and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. He received a Bachelor of Science degree (1913) and a Master of Engineering degree (1920) from Purdue University and honorary doctoral degree in 1975.

Crosthwait moved to Marshall Town, Iowa in 1913 to work for the Durham Company designing heating installations. From 1925 to 1930, Crosthwait was the director of the research department, investigating heating and ventilation methods. Crosthwait holds 39 U.S. patents for heating systems, vacuum pumps, refrigeration methods and processes and temperature regulating devices, and 80 international patents for the same. He is well known for creating the heating system for New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall and Rockerfeller Center.

Crosthwait was an expert on heat transfer, air ventilation and central air conditioning. He was the author of a manual on heating and cooling with water and guides, standards, and codes that dealt with heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and air conditioning systems. During the 1920s and 30s, he invented an improved boiler, a new thermostat control and a new differential vacuum pump, all more effective for the heating systems in larger buildings.

He was the Technical Advisor of Dunham-Bush, Inc. from 1930 to 1971. After retiring, Crosthwait taught a course on steam heating theory and control systems at Purdue University.