Born: 25 Mar. 1922
Died: 21 Apr. 1980
Paul Rappaport was an expert on photovoltaic energy who served as founding director of the Solar Energy Research Institute.
Rappaport was born in Philadelphia in 1922 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1973, he received a doctor of science degree from Arizona State University.
He spent most of his career at the RCA Corporation, which he joined in 1949. He worked as a researcher in RCA’s David Sarnoff Research Laboratories in Princeton. His projects included research on transistors and integrated circuits, but he spent the bulk of his time studying energy conversion and developing solar photo cells.
Rappaport became a leader in the field of photovoltaics. He wrote articles on the subject and edited The Journal of Energy Conversion, and also held thirteen patents. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter’s administration sought ways to develop alternative energy sources. It created the Solar Energy Research Institute to design these technologies within the U.S. Department of Energy in July 1977 at a site in Boulder, Colorado. Rappaport became its founding director, and he brought many RCA researchers with him, helping to establish the solar institute as a major center for solar energy research.
Rappaport received the William R. Cherry Award from the photovoltaic industry in recognition of his work in the field. A national fellowship, the annual Paul Rappaport Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Award, was also named in his honor.