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Google Recognizes Achievements of Maria Telkes, The ‘SUN QUEEN’

Google Recognizes the Accomplishments of Maria Telkes, The 'Sun Queen’
Picture of Maria Telkes (New York World-Telegram and the Sun/Wikimedia Commons)

Google Honors Maria Telkes, the “Sun Queen,” for Her Contributions to the Development of Solar Energy Technologies as a pioneering scientist.

As a way to recognize and pay tribute to Maria Telkes’ pioneering work in the field of solar energy technologies, Google is honoring her today. Telkes, also known as the “Sun Queen,” was a creative scientist who made significant contributions to the growth of solar energy technologies that continue to have an impact on the industry today. Her groundbreaking research on universal solar ovens, solar-powered water desalination, solar-heated homes, and other related topics has paved the way for future developments in the field. Google is honoring her today in an effort to draw attention to her legacy, highlight her pioneering work, and encourage more people to support solar energy and renewable energy advancements.

Early Childhood

  • When she was 11 years old, a school experiment in which she melted sulfur sparked her interest in chemistry, Telkes wrote in 1964
  • Telkes was always fascinated by the idea of harnessing the sun’s energy. 
  • Marie Telkes was born in Budapest, Hungary, on December 12, 1900. She was the daughter of Aladar and Maria Laban de Telkes. 
  • Her parents were supportive of her interest in science despite a mishap that resulted in a minor explosion. 
  • Telkes decided to pursue a career in solar energy after reading Kornel Zelovich’s “Energy Sources of the Future” as a freshman at the University of Budapest. 
  • After earning her degree, she continued her education at Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary, where she received a PhD in 1924 in physical chemistry.

Journey to the United States

  • Marie Telkes arrived in the United States the following year after earning her PhD. 
  • She worked as a biophysicist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where she worked on technology to record brain waves. She became a citizen of the United States in 1937. 
  • During World War II, she worked on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) solar energy committee and developed a solar-powered water desalination machine. 
  • The US soldiers stationed along the coast had access to clean water thanks to her invention. 
  • She was also a part of an MIT project to make homes that heat with solar energy, but the design she came up with didn’t work, and she was kicked off the committee.

She Liked Impossible Things

  • Despite the setback, she continued her research, and in 1948, at the age of 48, she collaborated with Eleanor Raymond, an architect, to design the first modern residence heated entirely by solar energy. 
  • Telkes was determined to use solar energy to achieve her goal, despite obstacles. 
  • In 1942, she said, “It is the things supposed to be impossible that interest me.” 
  • I enjoy doing things that others say can’t be done. 
  • She was 53 when she was awarded a $45,000 Ford Foundation grant to develop a universal solar oven.

“The Sun Queen” 

  • Marie Telkes worked on the 1972 construction of the first house that could use the sun to generate both heat and electricity. She contributed to the development of the first solar-powered home nine years later for the US government.
  • In 1952, she was given the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award, and when she retired at the age of 77, she was given a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Sciences Building Research Advisory Board.
  • Her contributions to the field of solar energy earned her the moniker “Sun Queen,” and she also holds more than 20 patents.
  • In 1995, Telkes returned to Hungary after spending several decades in the United States, where she passed away 10 days before her 95th birthday.

Story of Maria Telkes

Telkes was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1900. She went to Eotvos Lorand University in the city to study physical chemistry and got her doctorate in 1924. She left school after graduation and moved to the United States, where she worked in a variety of research roles, first as a biophysicist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation studying brain waves and then at Westinghouse studying how heat is converted into electricity. 

She became a citizen of the United States in 1937 and began working as a solar energy researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1939. She worked as a civilian advisor for the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. 

She developed a solar-powered desalination machine to provide soldiers and civilians in hostile environments with clean drinking water. She focused on building solar-powered homes after the war, but she ran into difficulties and left MIT in 1953. 

She did, however, continue to work for herself, creating a solar-powered oven for remote areas and working for a variety of businesses and government agencies over the subsequent decades. 

Telkes’ perseverance and determination, despite obstacles, resulted in numerous advancements in the field of solar energy, earning her the moniker “Sun Queen” and twenty patents. In 1995, just 10 days before her 95th birthday, she died in Budapest.