“Paleo-energy” book excavates forgotten inventions

Now launching on Kickstarter, a new book shows how forgotten energy patents of the past can propel us into the future by showcasing prototypes of overlooked inventions that are well worth revisiting.

The history of energy bubbles with fantastic forgotten innovations that barely took off in their time. Since 2015, the Paleo-Energy project has been collecting, crowdsourcing and documenting these social and technological inventions related to energy and transportation.

The book Retrotech & Lowtech is the result of collaborative research with contributions from around the globe, presented as an encyclopedic timeline of individual stories from the lesser-known history of energy, enhanced with thematic essays. Published for the first time in English, it joins the French (2018) and Japanese (2019) editions, a multilingual website and an international traveling exhibition.

Examples of forgotten inventions include: the first solar heat concentrators, designed by Augustin Mouchot and unveiled at the World Fair in Paris in 1878; a centenarian lightbulb using a filament made of carbon, invented by Adolphe Chaillet, that has been burning since 1901; an automobile powered by hydrogen, recharged by solar energy and exhausting only steam, built by Jean-Luc Perrier in 1979.

This revisionist history seeks to understand and examine the social, economic and cultural contexts that enabled and popularized certain innovations in energy resources while marginalizing or eliminating others. More importantly, it invites us all to rethink possible, and surprisingly accessible, solutions to the ongoing energy crisis, by recontextualizing these past innovations in the present—for our common future.

Learn more on the Kickstarter campaign and the Paleo-energy website

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