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Black History: Alice Parker breaks barriers and brings the heat

Alice Parker
Posted at 5:08 AM, Feb 15, 2021

There is very little known about Alice Parker, an inventor from New Jersey, who was the first to put to paper the idea of using natural gas to heat an entire home.

She grew up in Morristown, New Jersey.

Parker went on to receive a certificate with honors from an academy tied to Howard University in Washington D.C.

The cold northeastern winters inspired her to file a patent in 1919 for the first central heating system using natural gas while breaking down barriers of racism and sexism.

Dr. Robert Smith, History Professor at Marquette University describes Alice's patent as a great example of "Black girl magic" and nothing shy of remarkable given the times of the early 20th century.

But Dr. Smith also believes widespread racism and sexism around 1920 is a big reason there is a lack of information of Alice Parker and why her patent never directly resulted into product.

Dr. Smith argues "the most significant effort that was central to Black identity was education because to remain uneducated and remain illiterate was essentially its own version of slavery."

Besides safety and efficiency modernization, not much has changed from Alice's patent design and your typical natural gas furnace today.

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