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Unveiling Maria Telkes: Solar Visionary Extraordinaire

In the dazzling weave of solar technology, Maria Telkes emerges as a star telling stories of revolutionary solar technologies. Her innovative thinking led to the development of the solar distiller, as well as the first solar-powered heating system, and identifies her as one of the pioneers in harnessing solar power to make practical applications.

A Radiant Beginning:

  • Born in Austria-Hungary, on December 12th, 1900. Telkes started her adventure at Budapest’s University of Budapest. There, she was immersed in the field of physical chemistry. She graduated with distinction in the year 1920. After a seamless transition into academia, she became an instructor which she did until her move to America. United States.
  • After a decade of settling within America, a decade after settling in the Americas, Telkes not only accepted citizenship but also ventured into the world of solar energy concept. After joining Westinghouse Electric as a research engineer, she made her first step into the area of solar engineering.

Illuminating the Path: Solar Distillation Triumph

In the year 1939 Telkes who was now well-seasoned through her work at Westinghouse was immersed in research on solar energy. Her most significant contribution was made in World War II when she was appointed to the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development. It was in this office that the solar distiller, now legendary, was born, and is credited with saving thousands of lives by transforming seawater into potable drinking water.

The Sun’s Embrace: Solar-Powered Heating Systems

Unaffected by this success, Telkes continued her solar adventure post her stint with the U.S. Office of Scientific Research. Her next accomplishment? The development of the very first heating device powered by solar energy. This innovative mechanism harnessed sunlight to heat two-sided glass, which contained an enormous black piece of metal. The resultant hot air, blowing against the glass’s walls, produced energy, stored by Glauber’s salt to be used for future use.

Illuminating the World:

  • Telkes her brilliance has attracted the attention of major corporations, such as Telkes’ brilliance attracted major corporations, including the Ford Foundation, which granted her $45,000 for the construction of an oven that is solar-powered. The range she created grew by including solar-powered stoves, heating units, and, in conjunction with The U.S. Department of Energy, the first solar-electric home.
  • As her professional career came to an end, Telkes received well-deserved recognition. She was honored in 1952 when she was awarded the first award for achievement by the Society of Women Engineers. In 1977 The National Academy of Science Building Research Advisory Board recognized her with an award for lifetime achievement, then an award called the Charles Greeley Abbot Award of the American Solar Energy Society.

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