Maria Telkes was a Hungarian-American scientist who made significant contributions to the fields of solar energy and thermal storage. Born in Budapest in 1900, Telkes obtained her doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Budapest in 1924. She began her career in Hungary, but after the rise of Nazi Germany, Telkes fled Europe and eventually settled in the United States.
Telkes worked with some of the most renowned scientists of her time, including Nobel Prize winner Otto Hahn. In the early 1940s, she began working on the development of solar energy technology. She created the first thermoelectric generator that could convert sunlight directly into electricity, paving the way for the widespread use of solar energy.
Telkes also worked on developing a solar-powered desalination device that could convert seawater into fresh water. This technology was used to provide drinking water for U.S. troops during World War II and was later used to provide clean water to remote areas around the world.
In addition to her work on solar energy, Telkes was also instrumental in the development of thermal storage technology. She developed a system for storing thermal energy in materials such as rocks, which could then be used to heat buildings or generate electricity. This technology is still used today in solar-powered homes and buildings.
Telkes was recognized for her contributions to science and technology throughout her career. She was awarded numerous patents and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974. She also received the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award in 1952 and the John Fritz Medal in 1977.
Maria Telkes was a pioneer in the field of renewable energy and her contributions continue to have an impact on the world today. Her work on solar energy and thermal storage technology paved the way for the widespread use of renewable energy sources and helped to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Her legacy is a testament to the power of science and innovation to make a positive impact on the world.