Alexandre Edmond Becquerel is considered the father of solar panels, having discovered how electricity is generated from sunlight in 1839. His research paved the way for the construction of solar energy plants that heated water to create steam to power machinery during the Industrial Revolution.
Becquerel's discovery showed that shining light on an electrode within a conductive solution generates an electrical current. This is known as the photovoltaic effect, the same principle used in modern solar panels. A century later, Russell Ohl used this information to invent the solar cell, which made generating solar energy more efficient. Solar energy panels rely on solar cells to work.