Alice Parker (18??-19??)
Underscoring the difficulty of honoring the contributions of African American women prior to the Civil Rights Movement, there are not many details about Alice Parker’s life. She was born in Morristown, NJ and graduated from Howard University in 1910. What we do know, is that Parker applied for and was granted a patent on December 23, 1919 for a gas heating system that was a precursor to modern home central heating. While not the first gas furnace patent, Parker’s design showed a unique multiple burner system, each of which could be individually controlled. Her patent also includes the idea of using air ducts to deliver the heat to different parts of a home. This structure was an important precursor to the modern heating zone system and thermostats that continue to heat most homes today.