This month, we celebrate Women’s History Month which highlights women’s accomplishments and contributions to history, culture and society. It’s a chance to learn, reflect and honor the revolutionary women who have lead the way for change, innovation, women empowerment and gender equality.
Alice H. Parker was a black American inventor who is known for patenting a central heating system. Her idea played a key role in the development of the modern heating systems we use today.
Records indicate Parker was born in 1895 in Morristown, New Jersey although very little is known about her life or upbringing. Several photos have been attributed to her but none have been verified. The lack of information or accurate information is most likely due to the fact that women, especially black women, were not adequately documented at the time. She’s said to have attended Howard University in Washington D.C. which is an achievement in itself for a woman of the time.
The U.S. Patent Office records that Alice H. Parker filed an application for a heating furnace in 1918 which was patented in 1919. The idea for the heating system is said to have come from the cold winters in New Jersey when fireplaces did not efficiently heat a whole house. Parker’s design was the first to use natural gas to heat homes which saved time from chopping wood or using coal. It also reduced the safety risk fireplace’s pose.
While Parker’s patent was not the first gas furnace design, it was the first to benefit from an individually controlled multiple burner system. Think of it as a primitive heat exchanger made up of separate mini-furnaces. Each mini-furnace was connected to an air exchanger that created hot air from natural gas. The hot air would then flow through ductwork to heat each room of a house. Despite the fact that her exact design never came to fruition due to concerns with the regulation of heat flow, Parker’s heating furnace was an important predecessor to modern heating zone systems and thermostats.
Although she may be considered one of the many hidden figures in our history, her contributions have not gone unnoticed. In 2019, the National Society of Black Physicists honored Parker for her invention and how it laid the foundation for the modern heating systems we have today. That same year the Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Awards were established. The annual award is given out by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and recognizes the contribution of women who make innovations in Parker’s home state.
In addition to Parker, The Macomb group appreciates and wishes to thank all the women on our team. Your strength, poise and knowledge contribute to our success everyday. Happy Women’s History Month!