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Mária Telkes is not a household name.

But just after watching “The Sun Queen, premiering on PBS’s American Knowledge on Tuesday, you may possibly ask your self why.

The Hungarian American biophysicist is regarded as the founding mother of solar energy. But regardless of devoting her life to solar technologies, her contributions are largely forgotten nowadays.

The documentary gives a fascinating, if infuriating, view of Telkes’s life and profession, from her origins in Hungary to her groundbreaking perform building strategies to harness the sun’s energy. It shows her path from analysis scientist at Westinghouse, then at MIT and elsewhere — a path that, as a lady in science in mid-20th-century America, was something but simple.

The pitfalls had been quite a few. As a civilian in the Workplace of Scientific Investigation and Improvement throughout Planet War II, she invented a way to use the sun’s rays to desalinate water. But despite the fact that the invention would have been essential to soldiers throughout Planet War II, manufacturing challenges and workplace politics stymied the project.

Sexism, infighting and Telkes’s personal prickly character also created it almost not possible for her to achieve help for a procedure she invented that permitted chemical storage of solar power. And despite the fact that her accomplishments had been touted in the news media, the public generally seemed far more interested in her appears than her innovations.

But Telkes was wily, brilliant and committed.

The film tracks her perform on the 1948 Dover Sun Home, a solar-heated model residence designed by an all-female group. Now hailed as a groundbreaking, clean-power prototype noteworthy for its ultramodern style and Telkes’s use of chemical salts that absorbed and released heat, it gained national prominence. But the experiment failed just after a handful of years, and the home’s fame — and Telkes’s — didn’t sit nicely with her male colleagues.

The documentary skillfully juggles Telkes’s science and sex, but the portrait it paints is eventually one particular that can not be constrained by gender. If she had been capable to attain her accurate possible, it suggests — and if the United States hadn’t been so committed to power powered by fossil fuels — the globe could have even far more sophisticated solar technologies nowadays.

Viewers can judge for themselves and find out far more about a formidable scientific thoughts.

“The Sun Queen” airs on American Knowledge on PBS channels on Tuesday, with simultaneous streaming at

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