The first attempts at solar energy began in 1860 with the work of Auguste Mouchout, a mathematics instructor at the Lyce de Tours. He created a motor that ran on solar power, and continued to improved on that design until about 1880 when his funding ran out. His work laid the foundation for the modern understanding of converting the sun's energy into power.
Mouchout's first experiment involved an iron cauldron encased in glass that captured solar rays and created steam, although it did not create much. In 1865 he added a reflector to generate more steam. His next experiment succeeded in operating a small steam engine, which greatly impressed French emperor Napoleon III, and Mouchout was offered government funding. After years of improvements, the French government ultimately decided that solar energy was a technical success, but not financially practical. When Mouchout's government funding dried up, he returned to academic pursuits.