In 1960, the race to build the world's first laser came to an end as Hughes Aircraft researcher Theodore Maiman beat everyone to the punch. The laser is now 50 years old.
Adjusting the maser
In 1958, Bell Labs researchers Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, having not yet made a laser, applied for a patent based on a paper they'd written on the subject. They had written in the December 1958 issue of the journal Physical Review that it was possible to extend the principles of the "maser" to the optical regions of the spectrum. They received U.S. patent number 2,929,922 in 1960, the same year that Theodore Maiman at Hughes Aircraft built the world's first actual laser.
The laser turns 50 on May 16.
In this image, likely from 1958, Schawlow works on a ruby optical maser during an experiment. At the same time, C.G.B. Garrett gets ready to photograph the flash of the maser.
A maser stands for "microwave amplification by stimulation emission of radiation," according to Stanford's Gravity Probe B program. "A laser is a maser that works with higher frequency photons in the ultraviolet or visible light spectrum."
In this image, taken in 1960, Bell Labs researchers Ali Javan, William Bennett, and Donald Herriott work on their helium neon laser, the world's first laser that was capable of generating a continual light beam at 1.15 microns. The laser was also the first of its kind, an electrical discharge pumped gas laser.
This is the patent application that eventually resulted in Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow receiving U.S. patent number 2,929,922 in 1960, the same year that Theodore Maiman at Hughes Aircraft built the world's first actual laser.
U.S. patent number 2,929,922, granted to Bell Labs researchers Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, was granted for their theoretical invention of the laser. The patent was issued the same year as Hughes Aircraft's Theodore Maiman built the world's first laser.