She revolutionized home heating!
Born in Morristown, New Jersey, in 1895, Alice H. Parker would go on to later attend college at Howard University, Lemelson-MIT reports. While not much is known about her upbringing, we do know that she was a key hidden figure in the field of 20th-century inventions. Motivated by the cold winters she spent in New Jersey, Parker was drawn toward engineering and innovation. At that time, most homes were using wood or coal to heat their homes, a task that was both tedious and laborious.
On December 23, 1919, Parker changed it all, receiving a patent for a groundbreaking invention she called a “heating furnace.” Unique in the fact that her design used natural gas, Parker’s gas furnace featured a network of ducts and vents that distributed heat through the entire home. While not the first to patent a gas furnace design, Parker created a mechanism for multiple and individually controlled heating.
The idea was unimaginable at the time and revolutionized the home heating industry. While Parker faced challenges in gaining widespread recognition, her innovation would lay the groundwork for modern central heating systems and thermostats. Today, Parker is remembered for her ingenuity and immense contributions to the field of heating technology. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce also honors her work with the annual Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Awards.
Parker’s original design laid the groundwork that has warmed countless homes, improving the lives of people across the globe. As we honor her legacy, we recognize the importance of amplifying the work of Black women inventors throughout history whose contributions have been reduced or forgotten. Let us remember that their brilliance and impact deserve to be celebrated front and center.
Cover photo: here’s why you should know Alice Parker, the visionary Black woman behind the central heating system/Photo Courtesy of New Jersey Chamber of Commerce