It’s 50 years old (as of Sunday, May 16, 2010) – and still just as cool as ever.
The first laser was fired up 50 years ago, by a clever researcher named Theodore Maiman, at the Hughes research labs (now Raytheon) in California. Despite getting a laser working first, Maiman didn’t get his name on the patent for the laser – that went to Charles Townes, who had been also working on the project over at Bell Labs, and was the inventor of the “maser” – microwave laser, if you will – and who had previously described how the maser could be adapted to work with visible light. Townes later shared a Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the development of the laser.
Today, the laser is ubiquitous – whether it’s in the price scanner at the grocery store, your DVD & CD player, your fibreoptic communications networks, laser printer, or a rock and roll light show, it’s mainstream technology.
In our plastic surgery office, lasers play a helpful medical role, zapping veins, removing unwanted hair, and resurfacing skin.
Even Albert Einstein, who first conceived of the theoretical possibility of lasers and masers back in 1917, would be amazed!