Inventors are inspirational. Maria Telkes was an inventor, educator, author, and scientist. She is known for inventions and work on solar energy technologies. She designed the first solar-heated home and many solar-powered ovens, stills, and generators.
Maria Telkes was born on December 12, 1900 in Budapest, Hungary. She was raised in Budapest and attended college there. She earned a B.A. in physical chemistry from Budapest University in 1920.Her studies in physical chemistry continued and she received her Ph.D. in 1924. She then became an instructor at the University of Budapest.
In 1925, she visited and then moved to the United States taking a job at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. She worked there for 12 years under the leadership of George Crile. Together, they wrote a book, Phenomenon of Life.
In 1937, she became a United States citizen. She, also, finished her work at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and went to work at Westinghouse Electric as a research engineer. She began working and receiving patents on thermoelectric devices. In 1939, she joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Solar Energy Conversion Project. During World War II she served as a civilian advisor to the Office of Scientific Research and Development. She invented a solar still to convert salt water into drinking water. This was used by torpedoed sailors and downed airmen during World War II. It was later enlarged enough to provide large supplies of fresh water. This larger system was put into place in the Virgin Islands.
In 1948, she invented a solar heating system for a house in Dover, Massachusetts. In 1953, she went to New York University and setup a solar laboratory at the College of Engineering there. She made the first thermoelectric refrigerator and solar ovens. In 1958, she began working for the Curtis-Wright Company. In 1963, she became the head of the solar energy laboratory at the MELPAR Company. In 1969, she went to work at the Institute of Energy Conservation at the University of Delaware. She was named a professor at the University of Delaware in 1978. She retired from active research, but remained a consultant until 1992.
Maria Telkes won multiple awards and was honored during her life and since her death. In 1952, for example, she won the Society of Women Engineers Award. In 1977, she also won the Charles Greeley Abbot Award from the American Solar Energy Society. In 2012, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Maria died in 1995 during a visit to her hometown in Budapest, Hungary. She is remembered as the “Sun Queen”. Be inspired! Have a bright day!