Mária Telkes

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Mária Telkes
Maria Telkes NYWTS.jpg
Mária Telkes
Born December 12, 1900
Died December 2, 1995
Nationality Hungary
Fields Physics
Known for Thermoelectricity

Mária Telkes (December 12, 1900 in Budapest, Hungary – December 2, 1995) was a Hungarian–American scientist and inventor who worked on solar energy technologies.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Telkes moved to the United States after completing her Ph.D. in physical chemistry in Hungary.


She worked as a biophysicist in the United States; and, from 1939 to 1953, she was involved in solar energy research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Telkes is known for creating the first thermoelectric power generator in 1947, designing the first solar heating system for the Dover Sun House in Dover, Massachusetts,[2][3] and the first thermoelectric refrigerator in 1953 using the principles of semiconductor thermoelectricity.

She was a prolific inventor of practical thermal devices, including a miniature desalination unit for use on lifeboats, which used solar power and condensation to collect potable solar still.

One of her specialties were phase-change materials, including molten salts to store thermal energy. She lectured widely in a rather pronounced Hungarian accent that made her sound like one of the Gabor sisters. Fortunately, she had a ready sense of humor. One of her materials of choice was sodium sulfate Glauber's salt. After a lecture in Texas, a student came up to her, intrigued and asked, "Where can I get some of your 'global' salts ?"

Telkes was considered one of the founders of solar thermal storage systems. She moved to Texas in the 1970s and consulted with a variety of start-up solar companies, including Northrup Solar, which subsequently became ARCO Solar, and eventually BP Solar.


  • 1952 Society of Women Engineers Award
  • 1977 American Solar Energy Society - Charles Greeley Abbot Award


  1. ^ Famous Hungarians
  2. ^ Denzer, Anthony (2013). The Solar House: Pioneering Sustainable Design. Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0847840052. 
  3. ^ Rooney, Anne. Solar Power. Gareth Stevens, Inc. (2008)

External links[edit]