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Laser museum will travel to San Diego and Tucson

23 July 2010

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Curing cancers, diagnosing malaria, enabling the internet and 3D movies, generating clean energy: Lasers have come to touch nearly every area of life in the 50 years since the first one was successfully fired off.World's first working laser, built by Theodore Maiman A traveling display telling that story through an exhibit of more than 120 vintage lasers and several photo panels will be shown in San Diego, Calif., next month before moving to Tucson, Ariz., through the end of the year.

Organized by SPIE, the vintage laser exhibit includes loans from companies throughout the laser industry as well as private collectors including Jeff Hecht, Robert Hess, Richard Stone, and Kathleen Maiman, wife of Theodore Maiman, inventor of the first laser.

The laser display will be part of the 225-company exhibition at SPIE Optics and Photonics 3-5 August in San Diego.

Later in the month, the display will arrive at the Univ. of Arizona College of Optical Sciences (OSC), coinciding with the return of laser light shows at the university's Flandrau science center, where it will be shown throughout fall semester.

"The Flandrau exhibits and events will demonstrate how curiosity-driven science can lead to profound and transformational changes," said UA's Pierre Meystre, Regents' Professor of Physics and Optical Science. "They will also demonstrate the central roles OSC and Arizona have played in the development of the laser, through contributions of such towering figures as:

  • Willis Lamb, who received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Physics for work that laid the foundation for the development of quantum electrodynamics, and who went on to do seminal theoretical work on laser theory;
  • Nicolaas Bloembergen, who did seminal work on masers in the 1950s, holds one of the key laser patents, is one of the major forces behind the development of nonlinear optics, and received the 1981 Nobel Prize for Physics for revolutionary spectroscopic studies of the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter;
  • Peter Franken, the discoverer of nonlinear optics, and second director of OSC;
  • Stephen Jacobs, a member of the team around Gordon Gould who developed the Cs laser; and
  • Marlan Scully, a student of Lamb who developed the first quantum theory of the laser and was a coauthor with Lamb and Murray Sargent of the classic text Laser Physics."

A virtual version of the laser museum is posted on the SPIE website, and is part of the Society's Advancing the Laser: 50 Years and into the Future anniversary tribute.

The Advancing the Laser tribute includes a series of video interviews with laser luminaries, with new videos posted on the SPIE Newsroom weekly through August. Among the newest of 30 posted to date are interviews with Gérard Mourou (École Polytechnique), inventor of CPA (chirped pulse amplification); Adolf Giesen (German Aerospace Center), disk laser pioneer; and Kumar Patel (Pranalytica), inventor of the CO2 laser.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world.

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