Had We Paid Attention to Frank Shuman….


“One thing I feel sure of is that the human race must finally utilize direct sun power or revert to barbarianism” – Frank Shuman (1862-1918)

Frank Shuman was an American visionary – part engineer, part inventor – a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1897, Shuman demonstrated a “solar engine” constructed at his home. By reflecting sunlight onto cubes filled with ether, a substance with a lower boiling point than water, pipes inside the cubes created steam which powered a toy engine continuously for two years.

In 1908 he formed the Sun Power Company with the intention of building large power plants. By now his improved system of reflecting solar energy with mirrors meant water could be used instead of ether. He invented a low pressure steam turbine that processed energy 4 times faster than any turbine of the day. Patented in 1912 and featured in…

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One thought on “Had We Paid Attention to Frank Shuman….

  1. History is littered with Frank Shuman’s. I suspect that digging up such ahead-of-their-time inventors are a tremendous source for timely innovation. Except … that most of them are obscure side notes that are hard to locate unless you know what you are looking for.

    I remain convinced that we could develop and scale up a global renewable or at least non-poluting energy solution in a decade. In spite of all the doom saying, we still lack the incentive and courage to take leave from out oil economy. Too many careers and power balance are at stake. But it isn’t science or technology that is failing us. If anything, that may be Frank Shuman’s epitaph.

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