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Lasers & Sources

Ted Maiman and the birth of the Laser

SPIE Classics celebrates the birth of the laser -- 57 years ago this month.

16 May 2017, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.2201705.02

In 1960 Ted Maiman fired the world's first laser, a very low-powered device by today's standards that was dubbed a "death-ray" by some and a "solution looking for a problem" by others. Today the laser touches our lives in countless ways -- from the supermarket scanner to DVD players, from cosmetic surgery to state-of-the-art medical advances, from connecting people through the Internet to keeping our communities secure -- lasers are everywhere in today's world.

This video looks at how lasers impact our lives today and into the future through comments from a collection of laser pioneers and the researchers who are advancing the technology.

The video was produced by SPIE in 2010 as part of its Advancing the Laser celebration. It was first presented that same year at the meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Related content:

Video: Theodore Maiman on the first laser

In this 1983 video, Ted Maiman recalls the birth of the laser in his lab. 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.

Inventing the light fantastic: Ted Maiman and the world's first laser

To honor the fortieth anniversary of Maiman's historic invention, SPIE's Executive Director Eugene Arthurs spoke with Maiman to hear first-hand the story of how the scientist succeeded in winning the laser race. This article is based on that conversation.