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Lasers & Sources

Laser's birth honored at west coast celebrations

SPIE Newsroom
17 May 2010

The first fifty years of laser technology were celebrated with a rare firing of the first working laser at a conference in Vancouver, Canada, last weekend honoring its inventor, Theodore Maiman, and with other anniversary observances by the international laser community.

At Simon Fraser Univ. in Vancouver, Dan Gelbart, a Univ. of British Columbia professor and an inventor himself, had the honor of activating the ruby laser that Maiman built 50 years ago at Hughes Research Labs in Malibu, California.

Maiman's wife, Kathleen, helped organize the conference at SFU, where Maiman taught before his death in 2007. A panel of high-level speakers and other colleagues from aroudn the world joined Kathleen Maiman in paying tribute to Maiman's vision and perseverance.

A weekend ceremony at the California facility -- now operating as HRL Labs -- marked the designation of the location as a "Physics Historic Site" by the American Physical Society. There, on 16 May 1960, Maiman and his colleagues Irnee D'Haenens and Charles Asawa successfully powered up the first working laser, a device comprised of a rod of ruby crystal with reflectors at each end surrounded by a three-loop flashlamp.

A LaserFest session in San Jose convened laser pioneers and other experts for "Retrospectives on the Invention of the Laser" session on Sunday at CLEO/QELS. LaserFest is a collaborative celebration among supported by more than 60 partner and sponsor organizations. Founding Partners are SPIE, IEEE Photonics Society, American Physical Society, and Optical Society.

The SPIE-organized exhibit of historical lasers, which had its debut at SPIE Photonics West in January, is making another appearance in San Jose this week. (See the virtual laser museum online.)

Articles about the laser celebrations:

Full press release from SPIE
The laser at 50: How a white flash and a red dot changed the world (The Globe and Mail)
Legends revisit laser's birth (photonics.com)