PHOTO: SARIN IMAGES/GRANGER
Just 19 years after the first oil well was drilled, Augustin Mouchot blazed forth with the world's largest parabolic solar collector at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Shaped mirrors concentrated the sun's rays onto a black copper container filled with water, which turned the liquid into steam that then powered a refrigeration unit which produced blocks of ice. Mouchot won a gold medal for his invention. But soon after, solar power was snuffed by the falling prices of coal and oil, along with the expanding and competitive system of trains that made fossil fuels cheap and fast to transport.