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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The history of the laser


Together with the computer and the transistor, the laser belongs to the most successful inventions of the 20-th century. On May 16 2010 the laser turns 50. Happy birthday!

Fifty years ago the laser was called "a solution looking for a problem". Nowadays, lasers are everywhere around us: in cd- and dvd-players, in hospitals, in telecommunication, in the army and in scientific instruments to probe molecules and atoms. Some eight Nobel prizes have been awarded to laser related research.

Although Bell Labs still claims the invention of the laser, it was Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories who really made the first laser. Check out the interesting history of the laser in five minutes in this history of the laser and it's applications (PDF-document) that I have carefully compiled.

Also read:

the story about the invention of the first laser, as described by laser-journalist Jeff Hecht,


For the Dutch magazines/newspaper De Ingenieur, NRC Handelsblad and KIJK I am presently writing three articles on the past, present and future of the laser.

Watch these video's as a warming up...

...definitely start with the laserscene from the James Bond-film Goldfinger

Then there is inventor Theodore Maiman on the first laser.


Nobel prize winner Charles Townes, who made the first maser and established the theory of the laser, about the past and the future of the laser.

Finally a documentary about the laser.