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Lasers & Sources

Video: Theodore Maiman on the first laser

In a 1983 video, Ted Maiman recalls the birth of the laser in his lab at Hughes.

3 February 2010, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201001.07

Theodore H. Maiman received a B.S. in engineering physics from the University of Colorado in 1949, and an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1951 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1955 at Stanford University. His doctoral thesis in experimental physics, under the direction of Willis Lamb, involved detailed microwave-optical measurements of fine structure splittings in excited helium atoms. While conducting the experiment he learned a great deal about optical instrumentation, which was very appropriate to his later work on the laser.

Maiman's laser, based on a synthetic ruby crystal grown by Dr. Ralph L. Hutcheson, was first operated on 16 May 1960 at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California.

Among the many honors bestowed on him throughout his life, Maiman was inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame (1984), received the prestigious Japan Prize in 1987, and received honorary doctorates from the University of Cordoba, Argentina, and Simon Fraser University, Canada. He also was an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser until his death in 2007. Maiman received the SPIE President's Award in 1985.

This video was captured at First International Nd-YAG Laser Society Conference (Cincinnati, Ohio, October 1983). (Courtesy of Kathleen Maiman)

Related article: Inventing the light fantastic --Ted Maiman and the world's first laser (SPIE Newsroom; originally published in oemagazine, August 2000.