Engineering Includes Me: Mária Telkes

left: Maria Telkes, right: graphic of solar panels in field

Engineering Includes Me: Mária Telkes

Mária Telkes (1900-1995) was a Hungarian-American scientist who pioneered the development of solar thermal storage systems. Over her lifetime, she registered over 20 patents, almost all of which were related to solar energy.

Mária Telkes was nominated by Dr Bethan Charles to feature on our poster wall of inspiring engineers. Bethan is a lecturer in the School of Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering


The Engineering Includes Me Wall

Staff and students were invited to
nominate inspirational people in STEM
from marginalised or underrepresented
backgrounds. We commissioned eight
artworks for our shared spaces to
showcase and celebrate role models
from the faculty and beyond.

In the 21st century, advances in solar thermal energy will form a crucial component of the transition to renewable energy, but Telkes was decades ahead of the rest of the world. She collaborated with architect Eleanor Raymond to build a house designed to capture and store the sun’s energy. Her project was called the Dover Sun House and used specially designed windows to collect heat while vats of salt acted like a giant battery.

Today, engineers get excited about energy management systems that use solar collectors and batteries in buildings, but Mária Telkes was doing this in 1948. She also invented the solar distiller, a device used in World War II to turn seawater in fresh water. Her ground breaking but almost forgotten work makes her an overlooked trailblazer in sustainable energy.

Find out more

Listen to From our Inbox: Mária Telkes – The Biophysicist who harnessed solar power on Lost Women of Science and follow the links.
MSc by Research: Global Environmental Challenges
Cabot Institute: Low carbon energy
More about equity, diversity and inclusion in our faculty