The idea of using the sun as a source of energy has had a long history, but so far it has been a history of bright hope and dismal failure. In the middle 1950's newspaper headlines were full of glowing predictions of what solar energy could do for mankind; the first International Conference on Applied Solar Energy had been held, and solar energy seemed ready to take its place, along with peaceful uses of atomic energy and with interplanetary exploration, on Vannevar Bush's “endless frontier of science.” And now in the 1970's nuclear power reactors and spaceflight are realities, yet solar energy, as recently as a year ago, was dismissed by a National Academy of Science–National Research Council committee as of no importance in our future—despite the admitted “energy crisis” looming ahead. Whatever happened to the grand predictions? Our search into the history of solar energy started with this question, because we were curious to know if 1970 technology might yield a different result.

L. W.
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