History of Solar Energy

John Perlin

Author, Lecturer, Consultant — Solar Energy & Forest Preservation

Phone: 805.569 2740 • eMail: johnperlin@physics.ucsb.edu

John Perlin

From Space to Earth

The Story of Solar Electricity


John Perlin

Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts

One of The Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Books of Note


“The step-by-step progress of photovoltaics has elicited little fanfare. It is my hope that From Space to Earth will end the silence. The book is gripping to read and its themes long overdue in book-length form”. – Photon Magazine

“This ‘just in time’ story of the development of photovoltaics merits the most serious attention and cannot fail to stimulate the reader’s interest in both the episodes recounted, and their interdisciplinary applications and prospects. The author has provided us with a ‘good read’, and the illustrations enhance one’s enjoyment. It is a fascinating story, told so that even an individual without technical training can comprehend the breakthroughs which led to today’s widespread and ever increasing adoption of solar power. – Frank P. Davidson, former president of the American Society for Macro-Engineering, and Senior Adviser to the MIT Macro-Engineering Research Group, in Interdisciplinary Sciences Review.

"John Perlin's book gives a taste of the tremendous difficulties that early pioneers had to overcome to turn Charles Fritts' 1885 invention of a selenium-based solar module to today's booming photovoltaic business. Perlin gives a vivid and fascinating account of the advances of photovoltaics on Earth. Presenting the development of photovoltaic cells in such a personalized manner makes it a much more lively and interesting read than a mere technical account would have done." - Dr. Michael Gratzel, Institut de Photonique et Interfaces, Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Lausanne, Switzerland, in Nature.

"John Perlin's delightful tour through the development of photovoltaics (PV) answers not only the question of what is new under the sun, but most importantly, how we got there. Perlin charts the evolution of the photovoltaic industry from its beginnings to the present. It's the best and most readable book on photovoltaic research, policy, and market growth."- Dr. Daniel M. Kammen, Director, Energy Research Group, University of California, Berkeley, in Whole Earth.

“Twenty years ago John Perlin published Let it Shine, a comprehensive and authoritative history of solar energy that remains today one of the best books on the subject. Perlin’s present book is an equally impressive story of the twentieth-century solar photovoltaics industry. Even diehard opponents of solar energy should find it compelling.” - Dr. Anthony Stranges, Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M, in Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society.



A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Fate of Civilization

A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Fate of Civilizationy, John Perlin, author

let it Shine: 6000 years of solar architecture and technology

Let it Shine: 6000 Years of Solar Architecture and Technology, (John Perlin, sole author), available in bookstores mid September, 2013.

From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity. Ann Arbor, MI: aatec publications, 1999 (cloth); Harvard University Press, November, 2002 (paper) [Translated into Italian and serialized in Photovoltaic Magazine]

A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989 (cloth); Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991, 5th Printing, 2001 (paper). New Norton Edition, Countryman Press Imprint, fall, 2005. [Translated into Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish]

A Golden Thread: 2500 Years of Solar Energy. (With Ken Butti.) New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980. [Translated into Japanese and Spanish]


Over thirty published articles in the following publications: Ad Astra, American Heritage’s Invention & Technology, Chicago Magazine, CoEvolution Quarterly (now Whole Earth Review), Home Power, Journal of Science Education and Technology, New Shelter, Refocus Solar Age, Solar Law Reporter, Solar Today, Whole Earth Review, & World & I.

Op-Ed Pieces

“Solar Electricity Could Help California,” San Diego Union-Tribune, December 27, 2000.

“The Tree of Life,” Santa Barbara News-Press, “Voices from Santa Barbara,” April 19, 2000.

“Letting the Sun Shine on Our Energy Needs,” Santa Barbara News Press, “Perspectives,” August 22, 1999.


Understanding Solar Electricity, 2003; Californiasolarcenter.org.


London Times Book Review’s "Editor's Intersting Hardbacks -1990: A Forest Journey.

Publication of the Year—1990: A Forest Journey. The Geographic Society of Chicago.

Selection – 1991 “Sampler of the worldwide whirl planned for EarthDay- Time Magazine

Harvard University Press Classic in Science and World History: A Forest Journey -1996

Harvard University Press 100 Books for Every Reader’s Bookshelf: A Forest Journey -2004

Harvard University Press 100 Great Books: A Forest Journey- 2004


The Power of the Sun: One Century since Einstein’s Photon/A Half Century of Modern Photovoltaics. Principal Researcher, Narrative and Script Writer. University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Physics/Inca Productions, Mill Valley, California. August 2003 - July 2005.

Sunrise. Narrator, and Consultant, Provided Script/Images. U.S. Department of Energy's Million Solar Roof Program & Arizona Department of Commerce Energy. April, 2003 (for streaming video, see www.jpc.uni-linz.ac.at/os/indes-os.html ["History of Solar Cells (John Perlin)].

© Copyright 2000 - 2023 All rights Reserved John Perlin