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January 31, 1966

THE LIGHT THAT NEVER WAS ON SEA AND LAND

JAMA. 1966;195(5):385-386. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100050093031
Abstract

Calling forth visions of speeding missiles knocked out in midair and scheming sleuths (vide "Goldfinger") bisected in mid-torso, laser seems more like an independent word than the acronym that it is. Only when concerned with its theoretical implications and practical applications do we break it down into component letters which stand for "/ight amplification of stimulated emitted radiation."

A dream of physicists and communication engineers since 1917, when Einstein deduced that atoms may be stimulated by electromagnetic waves to emit photons, laser became a reality in 1960 when Maiman1 constructed the first workable model, applying principles delineated two years earlier by Schawlow and Towns. This model—a ruby crystal rod with xenon-filled flash tube as its source of light and a band of capacitors as a power supply— was soon followed by a spate of other generators of laser energy—solid, gaseous, and semiconductor— some emitting light in brief pulses,

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