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Alice H. Parker

As February is Black History Month, and International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, so it seems fitting to pay tribute to the African American woman who patented a gas furnace heating system that was a key step on the road towards modern furnaces.

Every winter, we Torontonians are able to stay warm and cozy thanks in part to Alice H. Parker, an inventor from New Jersey.

A Place in Furnace Design History

Officially granted a patent on December 23, 1919, Parker’s design shows gas being used to power the furnace, unlike the coal or wood typically used at the time (some lucky people had coal-fired radiator systems). Her patent also includes the idea of using air ducts to deliver the heat to different parts of a home.

Alice H. Parker's Gas Furnace Patent
These images are from Ms. Parker’s original patent application.

While not the first gas furnace patent (we know of some very early versions from the late 1800’s and one from 1907), Parker’s design showed a unique multiple burner system, each of which could be individually controlled. This structure was an important precursor to the modern heating zone system and thermostats as well. You can read more text from her patent here.

Furnace systems have been around since the Roman hypocaust, but it took thousands of years and the contributions of many amazing thinkers to arrive at the incredibly safe, highly efficient systems we enjoy today.

While this exact design was never implemented as-is (there were safety issues with how the heat flow is regulated), every winter we should remember what we owe to Alice Parker for improving 2 great ideas in home heating.

Not much is known about Alice Parker’s life, but she was a graduate of Howard University in 1910. This was one of the few places where both women and African Americans could pursue a university education at that time. That alone comprises a great step forward in our social progress.

We’ve Come a Long Way

Interested in getting a more energy-efficient furnace for your home? The experts at Air Quality Dunrite will help you find the right furnace for your home and your needs.

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