Bright Ideas: From Concept to Hardware in the First Lasers

By Dwight E. Neuenschwander – Almost everyone living in a technological society today owns or uses a laser. Compact disc players, supermarket checkout scanners, laser printers, and laser pointers are among the applications we encounter daily. Some specialized laser applications include cauterizing scalpels in surgery, industrial cutters and drills, surveying, artificial guide stars for astronomical observatories, and seismology.

This year, 2010, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the laser. If you ask people at random, “When were the principles first conceptualized that make lasers possible?”, many guess some date around 1960. That’s correct if you mean the construction of a working laser. But the concept of “stimulated emission” that makes lasers possible was first articulated by Einstein back in 1917! It took four decades for technology and circumstances to catch up with Einstein’s vision. more>


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