The Debate Rages On...
Americans Invented What?
By Frank Ahrens
A small flap has been developing over President Obama's gaffe in his speech to Congress Tuesday about the origins of the automobile.
"And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it," the president had said.
As reported last night by The Post, it's doubtful that Obama was referring here to Germany, home of Karl Friedrich Benz, inventor of the first true, four-wheel, gasoline-powered, internal-combustion-engine auto, or his contemporary, Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, who did same. America -- Henry Ford -- invented mass production of the auto, but not the auto itself.
Was Obama also mistaken about an American inventing solar technologies? An Atlantic blog suggests so, disputing his statement, "We invented solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it."
But it appears Obama is on a little better ground with the solar cell claim.
While it's true that work on the technology behind solar cells was done abroad during the 19th century, early solar cells had energy conversion efficiencies of under one percent. In 1941, the field progressed when the silicon solar cell was invented by Russell Ohl, an American.
Then, in 1954, it took another leap forward when three American researchers, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin, designed a silicon solar cell capable of a six percent energy conversion efficiency with direct sunlight.
It was only after American work in the mid-50s that solar cells became commercially viable.
Posted at 5:22 PM ET on Feb 25, 2009
The Debate Rages On...
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