Maria Telkes

Maria Telkes

Hungarian-American scientist and inventor
Date of Birth: 12.12.1900
Country: Hungary

  1. Biography of Maria Telkes
  2. The Solar Queen
  3. Innovations and Contributions
  4. Specialization in Phase Change Materials
  5. Legacy and Recognition
  6. Maria Telkes passed away on December 2, 1995, at the age of 95.

Biography of Maria Telkes

Maria Telkes, a Hungarian-American scientist and inventor, was born on December 12, 1900, in Budapest, Hungary. After earning her doctoral degree in physical chemistry, Telkes moved to the United States. She worked as a biophysicist and was actively involved in solar energy research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1939 to 1953.

Maria Telkes

The Solar Queen

Telkes gained fame as the creator of the first thermoelectric generator in 1947 and was nicknamed the "Solar Queen." Her invention, a technical device that directly converts thermal energy into electricity, became the first solar heating system for the "Dover Sun House" in Dover, Massachusetts.

Maria Telkes

Innovations and Contributions

Telkes was also credited with inventing the first thermoelectric refrigerator in 1953, which utilized semiconductor thermoelectric materials. She was a prolific inventor who found practical applications for thermal devices, including a miniature solar-powered desalination unit for use on life rafts. This desalination unit, which used solar energy and a condensation chamber, provided drinking water and continues to save the lives of pilots and sailors stranded at sea without access to clean water.

Specialization in Phase Change Materials

One of Telkes' areas of expertise was working with phase change materials, including salt melts, for thermal energy storage. Her research and contributions in this field further advanced the utilization of solar energy.

Legacy and Recognition

Telkes had a distinctive Hungarian accent and often sounded like one of the Gabor sisters, American actresses of Hungarian descent, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Eva Gabor. Her sense of humor always came to her rescue. Telkes had a fondness for sodium sulfate, or Glauber's salt. After one of her lectures in Texas, an intrigued student approached Telkes and asked, "Where can I get some of your 'global' salt?"

In the 1970s, Telkes relocated to Texas and provided consultation services to emerging solar energy companies. One notable company she worked with was "Northrup Sola," later known as "ARCO Solar" and now "BP Solar."

Telkes received several awards for her contributions. She was honored by the Society of Women Engineers in 1952 and received the Charles Greeley Abbot Award from the American Solar Energy Society in 1977. In 2012, Maria Telkes was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Maria Telkes passed away on December 2, 1995, at the age of 95.