It’s from the Bruce Herald, Volume II, Issue 39, 5 January 1865, Page 6. I came across “The Bruce Herald” elsewhere and initially thought it might be a kiwi prank. But no, it’s real. The BH is named after a former Otago electorate not a Fred Dagg character. It was was published at Milton from 1864 to 1971 making it one of New Zealand’s longest running country newspapers.
The name of the ‘learned man’ and ‘gourmand’ is not given. However, some research into the history of solar cooking turned up this useful time line which suggests that the technology was being developed by Augustin Mouchot at the time. Convinced that the coal which was firing the Industrial Revolution would run out, Mouchot was drawn to the idea of alternative energy. He began his research into solar cooking in the 1860’s. His work culminated in a solar powered engine displayed at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, in 1878.
Mouchot did his work around 100 years after Swiss physicist Horace de Saussure who is credited with constructing the first Western solar oven in 1767. Government funding for Mouchot’s work dried up after the price of coal dropped and solar energy was deemed to be uneconomical. He went back to teaching maths but received some recognition for his work in later years.
It’s a sad pattern repeated in subsequent history. The availability of ‘cheap’ fossil fuel has stifled development of alternative energy technologies which, had they continued as one might have expected, could have seen the use of solar energy in a far more advanced state than it is today.
Hopefully we are not destined to perpetually ‘rediscover’ this knowledge and its applications. Given that the current resurgence of interest in harnessing the sun’s free energy is due in no small part to the pressing issues of climate change one would expect not. However, if necessity is the mother of invention, modern convenience is the dodgy salesman selling us things we don’t need and ultimately can’t keep.
I was at a solar cooking workshop earlier on this year demonstrating the potential simplicity and cost effectiveness of solar cooking. One set up was basically as described in the clipping – two panes of glass placed over the insulated cooking vessel.
One must not believe, despite the silence of modern writings, that the idea of using solar heat for mechanical operations is recent. On the contrary, one must recognize that this idea is very ancient and its slow development across the centuries it has given birth to various curious devices.
— Augustin Bernard Mouchot, at the Universal Exposition, Paris, France (1878).
- see also http://www.solarcooker-at-cantinawest.com/solarcooking-history.html, http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/CalMax/Creative/2001/Summer.htm, http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/The_history_of_solar_cooking [↩]