The Sun Queen

Meet inventor Maria Telkes, who spent her career learning to harness the sun's power.

TUESDAY, APRIL 4 at 8:00pm

For nearly 50 years, chemical engineer and inventor Mária Telkes applied her prodigious intellect to harnessing the power of the sun. She designed and built the world’s first successfully solar-heated modern residence and identified a promising new chemical that, for the first time, could store solar heat like a battery. And yet, along the way, she was undercut and thwarted by her boss and colleagues — all men — at MIT. Despite these obstacles, Telkes persevered and, upon her death in 1995, held more than 20 patents. She is now recognized as a visionary pioneer in the field of sustainable energy. An unexpected and largely forgotten heroine, Telkes was remarkable in her vision and tenacity — a scientist and a woman in every way ahead of her time. Her research and innovations from the 1930s through the ‘70s continue to shape how we power our lives today.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Sun Queen follows the career of the Hungarian-born Telkes from her work on a solar desalinator for downed pilots in the Pacific during WWII to her work developing solar-heated homes for GIs returning from the war. It also explores how increasingly cheap fossil fuels derailed solar efforts in the 1950s and delayed the movement to solar energy for decades.

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