Engineering the Home: Domestic Comfort via Science

If the wretched hole which they show in Carnarvon Castle as the birthplace of Edward II be indeed the room in which that unhappy prince first saw the light, I can only say that whatever advantages the men of a former age may have had over us, certainly domestic comfort could not be said to be one of them.

– W. F. Butler. Ventilation of Buildings. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1873, page 9. (Parks Special Collections TH 7653 .B978v)

“Electric Heating and Cooking Apparatus.” The Electrician, December 31, 1897. (TK1 EL266.

Wherever you’re reading this, take a look around. Chances are that you are, or have recently, benefited from some kind of “domestic comfort” – whether that be an air conditioned house, electrical lighting, a metal cooking pot, or a ventilated

room, the products of science have made life a little pleasanter.


An “alarm thermometer” that provide alerts when designated areas became too cold or too hot. The Electrician, November 26, 1897. (TK1 EL266).

The home has benefited greatly from disciplines such as applied physics,1 electrical engineering, thermodynamics, materials science, mechanical engineering, acoustics, and so on. Iowa State scientists have contributed to several domestic comforts: Srinivas Garimella developed technology that can be used for environmentally friendly air conditioners and the Iowa State University Research Foundation, in conjunction with Maytag Corporation, developed an ice dispenser that will work in refrigerators with freezers on the bottom.

Design for a safety lamp. John Davy. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1839-1840. (QD3 D315c)
Design for a safety lamp. John Davy. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1839-1840. (QD3 D315c)

 You can read more about Iowa State University technology developments here. Iowa State University patents from 1959 to present are also viewable via the Iowa State University digital repository.

For more about Iowa State University inventors, see our technology collections subject guide. A few of those collections are listed below:

  • Iowa State University Inventors and Inventions (RS 00/21)
  • John Vincent Atanasoff Papers (RS 13/20/51)
  • Wesley Fischer Buchele Papers (RS 9/7/52)(pdf)
  • George Washington Carver Collection (RS 21/7/2)
  • Charles A. and Sidonia Goetz Papers (RS 13/6/17)

1“Applied Physics is rooted in the fundamental truths and basic concepts of the physical sciences but is concerned with the utilization of scientific principles in practical devices and systems, and in the application of physics in other areas of science.” – Stanford Department of Applied Physics, 2003.

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