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Fundamental Science

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Definition

FUNDAMENTAL SCIENCE looks at principles and ideas that have propelled the heating industry.

The Enabling Power of Scientific Knowledge

1. Image of Lord Kelvin, physicist, devised the Kelvin temperature scale

1. Physicist Lord Kelvin, devised
the Kelvin temperature scale.
Click the image for more information.


Throughout the Middle Ages, craftsmen and inventors worked diligently improving their crafts, methodologies, and processes as best they could, but without the benefits of scientific knowledge. So, as a result, by the sixteenth century technical achievement had reached a stalemate. New knowledge, principles and concepts were needed on which to move forward.

Francis Bacon (1561–1626), was to trigger a new scientific era by insisting that technical decisions must be made on the basis of experiment and proof. Facts not fancy were henceforth to be the foundations on which knowledge was to be built. The exponential growth of science and technology through to the twenty-first century would be based on the growth of what has been called the “scientific spirit.”

As a result, advances in the field of automatic central heating would rest on the scientific research of the giants of their times. Included were William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin (1824–1907), in the field of thermodynamics and Bernoulli (1700–82) in the field of fluid flow.

The field of engineering thermodynamics, based on natural law, observation and mathematical computation deals with the interchange of energy between mechanical and thermal systems. Lord Kelvin in his address to the Institute of Civil Engineers, May 3, 1883, makes the case for scientific knowledge production: “When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” Similarly, Bernoulli’s work in fluid flow would provide the definitive base on which engineering design in the field of fluid mechanics would proceed.

Section Gallery

2. Image of Daniel Bernoulli3. Image of Francis Bacon4. Book pages describing the science and mathematics of thermodynamics 5. A page describing fluid flow

Factually Speaking

“Scientific discovery and scientific knowledge have been achieved only by those who have gone in pursuit of it without any practical purpose whatsoever in view” — Max Planck

Principles of heat flow:
Gravity flow for hot water and hot air

1. Image of window frosted with ice

1. View through a frosted window.
Click the image for more information.


Simply put heat is nothing more than the vibrating of atoms. Hot water vibrates more violently than cold water. Mix the two together and the hot water warms up the cold.

Then we have warm water as the energy finds an equal point, a first step to heat the radiator, and then the air in the room.

Hot and cold materials coming in contact with each other produce a “heat transfer.” This flow is always from a higher temperature to a lower temperature. We have high temperature flue gas from burning fuel inside a home furnace coming in contact with the metal heat exchanger that warms up. It, in turn, heats the cool air flowing from the furnace fan, warming the air in your home. Heat passing through this metal creates what is called “conduction.” Materials that transfer heat quickly are good “conductors.”

Picture a single piece of window glass with the winter cold on one side and warm indoor air on the other. Warm air touches the cold glass; heat conducts to the outside. The air becomes heavier, it sinks to the floor. It is then replaced by warm room air which also loses its heat, producing a continuous flow of cold air to the floor. On the winter side of the glass, air is warmed and becomes lighter flowing up the glass. It too is replaced by cold air that gets warmed producing a continuous flow of air up the glass. These are both called “convection.”

2. Image of the upper part of a gravity furnace showing many ducts

The ductwork for an octopus furnace. Click the image for more information.


The upward flow of warmed air and the downward flow of cooled air is called “counter flow heat transfer,” which is the fastest way to transfer heat, warming up the room air.

Some materials can transfer or conduct heat quickly and others very slowly. Material with a very slow heat conduction rate can be called an “insulator” or “insulation.”

Factually Speaking

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have” — Albert Einstein

To invent and engineer is human

1. Thomas Edison, 1847-1931

1. Thomas Edison, 1847–1931.
Click the image for more information.


Much of creativity, invention and innovation concern themselves with making something that didn’t exist before — at least in the same way. Fine minds and right circumstances are said to be the ingredients of such activities. The notion of invention is of special interest, when it comes to understanding how central automatic heating has come to be in Canada over the last 100 years or so.

One author, musing over the idea of invention, speculates that to invent one must be a kind of social critic. That is one who sees in the artefacts of life, with which he or she is surrounded, shortcomings that need to be rectified. Yet, seeing what is wrong is only the starting point of creativity, invention and innovation.

Thinking about what is wrong is the work of wishful thinkers and theorists. Coming to imagine how things can be improved and the ability to do something about that are the essential acts of the inventor and innovator. They yield increasingly more sophisticated, more effective, better performing, and more reliable things that contribute to human life in myriad ways. The objects of socially responsible invention and innovation are assumed to yield positive, progress improvements in matter of human and community health, happiness, convenience, comfort, and entertainment.

The engineer and engineering process make a special contribution to our naturally creative, innovative, and inventive human instincts. Engineering is concerned with the making of improvements through the power of scientific knowledge and the art of design. Good engineering design, often coming almost instinctively from deep within the mind, produces solutions that are at once practical, workable, economical and elegant in their conception.

The central automatic home heating systems, on which Canadians have come to depend for their life giving benefits, depend on many practical, workable, economical and elegant devices, the outcome of fine minds and right circumstances.

Section Gallery

2. Image of liquid fuel metering device that uses natural gravity flow3. View of the liquid fuel metering device in pieces4. Firing head engineered in brass, copper, stainless steel, and porcelain5. Gun-style oil burner firing head

6. Image of an advanced firing head using dripless oil valve technology7. Image of a firing head that helped ensure clean smoke-free combustion8. Image of a precast circular combustion chamber 9. Image of a thermostatic controlled automatic gas valve and pilot

10. Image of an automatic, fuel oil pressure regulating valve11. Image of a humidistat from the mid-20th century12. Image of humidistat with cover removed13. Electric ignition transformer

Factually Speaking

“A scientist discovers that which exists. An engineer creates that which never was.” — Theodore von Karman

The unshakeable belief of Canadians
in the power of science and technology

1. Image of a coal-fired boiler promoted for its efficiency

1. “Heat machine” quietly delivers warmth.
Click the image for more information.


With the early years of the 20th century came the popularization of science and technology. By and large they would together be viewed as friend and saviour. For many Canadians, those that could afford to think big, the dawn of science and technology awareness came with radio, the motor car, and a myriad of other life giving amenities including the early years of automatic central heating.

It has been observed that, for most Canadians, there is an almost universal desire for the mechanisms and devices of convenience, comfort, and entertainment. These desires became the compelling forces driving much of science and technological development through the 20th century and on into the 21st. Inventors, knowing that markets await, redouble their energies to produce anything that would, at the same time both create demand and satisfy it.

With the popularization of science and the technologies of the marketplace came a new social optimism; an optimism that would, nonetheless become the subject of much rethinking as the century progressed. Canadians along with other Western peoples would tend to rejoice in their increasing “scientific” understanding of the world around them. For science had the power to see more deeply into the nature of things.

People rejoiced, too, in the new technologies of the day, not merely for what they did, but also for what they promised in the near future — promises like an automobile in every driveway, a radio in every room, and carefree, automatic central heating system in every home.

The science and technologies of the 1920s and 1930s brought a new social optimism and a significantly altered concept of the nature of social progress itself. To be surrounded by the new amenities of science and technology was to begin to define social progress in more materialistic and humanistic terms, rather than naturalistic and spiritual ways.

The widespread social imagery of the period promoted the optimism and the new materialism — a positive view of life at a time otherwise dominated by world wars and economic recession. The automobile, the telephone, the camera, the toaster, abundant hot water, the pleasures of radio, and of global travel, among many other technological marvels, all helped to set expectation for the comfort, convenience and affordable of central automatic home heating.

Section Gallery

2. Photo of an automobile3. Advertisement for the telephone4. Advertisement for the camera

 5. Advertisement for world cruise6. Advertisement for a hot water heater7. Image showing people sitting around a radio

Factually Speaking

“Engineering is the science of economy, of conserving the energy, kinetic and potential, provided and stored up by nature for the use of man. It is the business of engineering to utilize this energy to the best advantage, so that there may be the least possible waste.” — William A. Smith

The Universal Human Need
for Warmth and Comfort

1. Image of people at a table in front of a roaring fire

1. The hearth provided warmth and comfort in
bitter Canadian winters.
Click the image for more information.


The Canadian experience, variously in a land of cold, snow and ice, often for upwards to half the calendar year, is one of the constant quests for warmth, health, and comfort. Stories are told of immense winter hardship, testing the frontiers of human tolerance, and of the hardships endured while seeking the warmth and comfort afforded by open fire. Substantial evidence exists, recorded in Canadian literature, drama and in the visual and graphic arts of the universal human need for warmth and comfort.

From its earliest years the Canadian quest for warmth and comfort brought with it the cultural understandings of its settlement, euro-centered peoples. They were those who endured the challenges and sought the achievements of the centuries of early exploration and settlement. Reflecting European traditions, the Romans are recognized as the first great Western heating engineers. About 80 BC they devised a warm air heating system known as “hypocaust” for heating public baths. In the colder climate of northern Europe the system was used for heating Roman villas, vestiges of which still exist in England.

It is said that after the fall of Rome and the loss of hypocaust technology, Europeans relied for the next 1,400 years on open fire, the hearth, and the stoves of the period. We are told that the masonry stove was used in Switzerland by 820 AD, and in northern Germany, Scandinavia, Poland, and Russia by the 16th century. Elsewhere the metal stove was in use following the increasingly sophisticated methods required for steel and iron making.

It was the technology of open fire, hearth, and stoves that early explores and settlers brought with them to their “new world.” All they had, they provided a modest source of warmth, health and comfort. They were all that the technology of the times would enable.

Section Gallery

2. Image of Count Rumford in front of his invention, the Rumford fireplace3. Image of a log cabin


Article Sources

The enabling power of scientific knowledge

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #64. HD1007S).
  • C.R. Young, H.A. Innis and J.H. Dale, Engineering and Society, with Special Reference to Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946).
  • Classic theoretical descriptions of the field of engineering thermodynamics, on which 20th century engineers were trained, is provided by Young and Young, Elementary Engineering Thermodynamics (New York: McGraw Hill, 1947).
  • Similarly classic descriptions of the field of engineering thermodynamics is provided by John Vennard, Elementary Fluid Mechanics (New York: Whiley and Sons, 1948).
  • The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers [ASHRAE] provides a definitive look at the core principles, concepts and ideas and their applications in the fields thermodynamics and fluid flow. Harry J Sauer; Ronald Hunter Howell; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Handbook of Fundamentals, 1972 (New York, ASHRAE, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, 1972).

Principles of heat flow: gravity flow for hot water and hot air

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #23, HD1005K).

To invent and engineer is human

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #69, HD1008K).
  • C.R. Young, H.A. Innis and J.H. Dale, Engineering and Society, with Special Reference to Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946).
  • Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity (Concord, ON: Anansi Press, 1991).
  • Ronald Wright, “A Short History of Progress”, CBC Massey Lectures (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2004).
  • Henry Petroski, To Engineer is Human, the Role of Failure in Successful Design (New York: Vintage Books, 1992).
  • James Downey and Lois Claxton, eds., Inno’va-tion, Essays by Leading Canadian Researchers (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2002).

The unshakeable belief of Canadians in the power of science and technology

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #63. HD1007T).
  • C.R. Young, H.A. Innis and J.H. Dale, Engineering and Society, with Special Reference to Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946).
  • Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity (Concord, ON: Anansi Press, 1991).
  • Ronald Wright, “A Short History of Progress”, CBC Massey Lectures (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2004).
  • Henry Petroski, To Engineer is Human, the Role of Failure in Successful Design (New York: Vintage Books, 1992).

The universal human need for warmth and comfort

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #61).
  • Brian M Roberts; Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, The Quest for Comfort, A Selective Pictorial History of the Early Days of Building Services to Mark the centenary of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers [CIBSE], 1897 to 1997, Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, [1997].
  • Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (Toronto, ON: New Canadian Library, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1962), 142-43. First published in England in 1852, the book covers the years 1832 to 1847.
  • C.R. Young, H.A. Innis and J.H. Dale, Engineering and Society, with Special Reference to Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946).

SIDEBAR

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.
  • C.R. Young, H.A. Innis and J.H. Dale, Engineering and Society, with Special Reference to Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), p 9.
  • James Downey and Lois Claxton, eds., Inno’va-tion, Essays by Leading Canadian Researchers (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2002).

Factually Speaking

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.
  • Engineering quotes - Best Engineering Quotes, via http://www.best-quotes-poems.com/engineering-quotes.html

Image Credits

The enabling power of scientific knowledge

  • Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Ibid., via Wikipedia.
  • Ibid., via Wikimedia Commons.
  • V.W. Young, and G.A. Young, Elementary Engineering Thermodynamics:Third Edition (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1947), 10–11.
  • John Vennard, Elementary Fluid Mechanics: Second Edition (New York, NY: Wiley and Sons, 1948), 208.

Principles of heat flow: Gravity flow for hot water and hot air

  • Milan Garbiar from Liesek, Slovakia (Flickr: view from my window) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
  • HHCC.

To invent and engineer is human

  • Portrait of Thomas Edison, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Edison2.jpg (accessed Aug 22, 2010).
  • HHCC Historical artefact (Accession No. 2006-154), photographed by Mark Dorlandt Photography, HD1006A-12-055.
  • Ibid., 12-064.
  • Ibid., 5-008.
  • Ibid., 5-022.
  • Ibid., 6-031.
  • Ibid., 6-032.
  • HHCC Historical artefact (Accession No. 2006-121), photographed by Mark Dorlandt Photography, HD1006A-8-036.
  • Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co., Automatic controls, valves, switches, Number 59 (Toronto, ON: Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co., circa 1959).
  • HHCC Historical artefact (Accession No. 2006-139), photographed by Mark Dorlandt Photography, HD1006A-31-143.
  • HHCC Historical artefact (Accession No. 2006-098), photographed by Mark Dorlandt Photography, HD1006A-26-077.
  • Ibid., 26-081.
  • HHCC Historical artefact (Accession No. 2006-133), photographed by Mark Dorlandt Photography, HD1006A-29-112.

The unshakeable belief of Canadians in the power of science and technology

  • Ad in National Geographic, 1920s.
  • Ibid., June, 1926.
  • Ibid., June 1922.
  • Ibid., March 1921.
  • Radio Trade Builder, August, 1927, Cover.
  • Advertisement, Pittsburgh Water Heater Co., n.p., n.d.
  • Lloyd,Puchstein, Alternating-Current Machines: Second Edition (n.p.: Wiley and Sons, 1949), 164-65,.

The universal human need for warmth and comfort

  • Brian M Roberts; Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, The Quest for Comfort, A Selective Pictorial History of the Early Days of Building Services to Mark the Centenary of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers [CIBSE], 1897 to 1997, Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, [1997]. Cover.
  • James Gillray, via http://www.wikigallery.org/.
  • Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (Toronto, ON: New Canadian Library, McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 1962), cover.