Maria Telkes

Mária Telkes (1900-1995)

Inventor of Hungarian origin. She worked in the field of solar energy research, and her many inventions earned her the nickname “sun queen”. She was born in Budapest into a well-off family. She graduated from Pázmány Péter University in 1924, and earned her PhD in physical chemistry here as well. In the same year, she moved to the USA, where she spent the rest of her life. She started researching solar energy in 1939. During WWII, she invented the solar still, a portable desalination unit which reclaims drinking water from seawater using solar energy. The device saved the lives of marines stranded in the ocean by creating 1 litre of drinking water per person per day. After the war, she designed the first solar heating system for the Dover Sun House, and invented many other practical thermal devices until her retirement in 1978, and she kept submitting her patents until she was 90. At 95, she came back to Budapest to see her city one last time, and she died here the same year.

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