Maria Telkes first became interested in the problems of solar power as a high-school student. She came to the United States in 1925 with a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Budapest. After working at several public and private organizations as a researcher, in 1939 she came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a research associate. It was at MIT that she became known for her research in solar energy. Her achievements were to devise a portable distilling system using solar energy to convert sea water to drinking water on life rafts as well as design a heating system based on the latent heat of fusion of salt-hydrates for the first solar home at Dover, Massachusetts. She designed, built, and tested solar thermoelectric generators for terrestrial and space uses. She researched and developed solar ovens and solar heaters using air and liquid heat exchangers and held numerous patents for solar devices. She received the first achievement award ever given by the Society of Women Engineers in 1952 during her tenure at MIT in recognition of her meritorious contributions to the utilization of solar energy.
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