1955: Hot News About the Sun



Long and fascinating article in Modern Mechanix about the promise and possibilities of solar power, from Mechanix Illustrated in August, 1955.


Last Fall, the National Industrial Conference Board brought together a group of businessmen in New York City to thrash out the question of just how the sun's great energy, free but elusive, could be trapped for commercial use. One of the chief speakers was octogenarian Charles G. Abbot, secretary emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and a world-famed astrophysicist. He jolted the assembled businessmen with this: "There is a world-wide demand for small solar-power machines, up to five hp, for irrigation, heating and cooling of dwellings, charging batteries and other ranch uses. The demand is very keen in Australia, India, Israel and other semi-arid regions where fuel is several times more expensive than in the U. S. At present there is no company manufacturing such units, though the demand is large and constant."

Dr. Maria Telkes of New York University, one of the world's foremost authorities in the field, also spoke to the businessmen and outlined what's ahead. Hear this: Small household appliances utilizing the power of the sun will be in wide-spread use soon, Dr. Telkes said. She expects them within the next five years! "Especially in tropical regions where conventional fuels are at a premium," she pointed out, "small devices powered by the sun can soon be a reality. "

What else is coming? "Small cooling units utilizing the sun's energy are also feasible," said Dr. Telkes.

And still a third foreseeable application, she asserted, lies in development of small-scale thermo-electric generators for household purposes.

A fourth possibility is the use of the sun to convert sea water to fresh water for human consumption and irrigation purposes, thus opening up vast new areas to habitation and cultivation.

The authoritative Wall Street Journal, which keeps its fingers closely on the pulse of opportunity, predicts that a few manufacturers will "plunge headlong into the sun-stove field in the immediate future."

"Though the stoves have been tested on a laboratory scale," the Journal declared in a recent report, "there are still problems to be solved before they're likely to be produced on a mass scale. Scientists hope, however, that if some manufacturers get stirred up about commercial possibilities, the resulting research will speed the arrival of practical solar energy units." ::Modern Mechanix

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