Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life and innovative work of Dr. Maria Telkes, one of the first pioneers of solar energy. She believed the power of the sun could change human lives, and she was right! Dr. Telkes was the first to receive The Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award on this day in 1952.
Dr. Maria Telkes was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1900 and studied physical chemistry at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest. She graduated with a B.A. in 1920 and received her PhD in 1924. The following year, she moved to the United States and accepted a position as a biophysicist. In 1937, she became a U.S. citizen.
Dr. Telkes continued her career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a member of the Solar Energy Committee. During World War II, she was called upon by the U.S. government to help develop a solar distiller that converted seawater into fresh water. This life-saving invention was used by soldiers stationed in the Pacific theater.
After the war, Dr. Telkes returned to MIT as an associate research professor. She and her MIT colleagues were tasked with creating habitable solar-heated homes. Unfortunately, she proposed and developed a design that failed, and was removed from the committee, but she persisted.
In 1948, after securing private funding from philanthropists, she created the Dover Sun House in partnership with architect Eleanor Raymond. The solar-heated home was a success and the women were featured in the media, popularizing the term ‘solar energy’ among the public.
Dr. Telkes’ inspiring career was filled with success and innovation. She was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and created a solar oven design that’s still used today. She also helped research solar energy at prestigious institutions such as NYU, Princeton University, and the University of Delaware. Dr. Maria Telkes earned more than 20 patents and worked as a consultant for many energy companies. It’s no wonder she’s remembered as The Sun Queen.