Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy


Let It Shine

In 1903, Charles Pope wrote Solar Heat. “The purpose of this book,” the author stated, was that “some call to the people was needed…to arouse interest [in] ‘catching the sunbeams’ and extracting gold from them.”  To accomplish his goal, he tells his reader that he had endeavored “to trace the history of attempts and successes in the utilization of solar…discuss ways and means; and attempt to arouse his readers to give to the matter their energy and invention, their brain and capital; that we may very soon see solar enginery take its place by the side of steam enginery and electrical enginery and gas enginery in the public estimation.”

Despite the vintage of Pope’s book, many still believe that solar energy is a late twentieth-century phenomenon.  Hopefully, Let It Shine will change this misconception. Let It Shine shows, for example, that six thousand years ago the stone-age Chinese built their homes so every one of them made maximum use of the sun’s energy in winter. So begins the story of the genesis of solar energy told in Let it Shine, the world’s first and only comprehensive history of humanity’s use of the sun. Page after page the story brings to light information never before unearthed. 2,500 years ago, for example, the sun heated every house in most Greek cities. Years later ancient Roman architects published solar self-help books to show people how to save on fuel as firewood became scarce, and fleets scoured the known world for much needed supplies.

During the renaissance Galileo and his contemporaries planned the construction of sun-focusing mirrors to serve as the West’s ultimate weapon against its Islamic enemies. Leonardo da Vinci entertained more peaceful applications. He aimed at making his fortune by building mirrors a mile in diameter to heat water for the Florentine woolen industry.

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