Home » Smithsonian Shares History of Solar Exhibit
1/7The History of Solar
Solar on the Line explores the innovation and technology behind solar power as a renewable energy resource and presents multiple views on the potential benefits and challenges of this technology. This display introduces visitors to the history of solar energy use in the United States both as part of the electrical grid as well as an off-grid supplement.
James P. Mauzey of Blackfoot, Montana Territory, patented a solar heater in 1880. His patent called for a movable frame to track the sun and adjustable glass or metal reflectors “for concentrating and focusing the rays…for any desired purpose.”
This solar oven from 1938 was invented by astronomer Charles G. Abbot, who made it while serving as secretary of the Smithsonian. He received several patents for solar inventions, including this oven.
4/7First Practical Solar Cell
As you can see in the caption, this small device is the first practical solar cell, which was created by Bell Telephone and used to power telephone equipment in remote locations.
5/7Powering Satellite Technology
The device that looks like a harmonica in the center of the photo is actually Bell Telephone’s further-developed solar cell, which was used on satellite technology dating back to the late 1950s.
6/7Solar Powered Energy Kit
Kids in the mid-1990s could use this at-home kit to learn about solar power.
7/7Solar Test Panel
Want to see how solar energy works? Shine a light onto this display panel and see how much power output it generates.