Sunday, July 29, 2007

The history of solar cooking

Many scientists of the era, and laypersons as well, knew about the use of glass to trap heat, but Horace de Saussure, a French-Swiss scientist, wondered why that commonly understood phenomenon had not led to additional applied use.... De Saussure continued his experimentation, using other materials, adding insulation, cooking at different altitudes, etc. This European scientist, exploring solar energy nearly 250 years ago, is widely considered to be the father of today's solar cooking movement. Others followed his lead, including the Briton, Sir John Herschel, and American Samuel Pierpont Langley, later head of the Smithsonian, both of whom conducted experiments with the hot box, the forerunner of today's box cooker, probably still the most common design in use.

...His second project was more successful; he combined the heat trap idea with that of the burning mirror, creating an efficient solar oven from an insulated box, which when further modified by adding reflecting mirrors, even became a solar still.

...Late in the 19th century, other pioneers in the development of solar thermal (heat generating) technologies include Aubrey Eneas, an American who followed up on the work of Mouchot and formed the first solar power company, building a giant parabolic reflector in the southwest USA.

...After that period, the years of the latter half of the 20th century show a number of individuals and groups experimenting with, demonstrating the potential, and conducting small and large projects using solar cooking devices.

...Obviously, the organization has been required to up its goals routinely, as the world's population has continued to burgeon, to well over six billion in 2004, meaning that today the target group is over two billion.

...This thumbnail sketch is only a small part of the history, much unknown even to solar cooking supporters, of the many men and women who have caught a glimpse of the potential of the sun to cook food and have attempted over the centuries to spread that knowledge to others who can benefit.

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