The Optical Society Commends U.S. House of Representatives for Passage of Resolution Recognizing 50t


Lyndsay Meyer
The Optical Society

The Optical Society Commends U.S. House of Representatives for Passage of Resolution Recognizing 50th Anniversary of the Laser

WASHINGTON, May 5—The Optical Society (OSA) today commended the U.S. House of Representatives for considering and passing House Resolution 1310, “Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Laser.”  The resolution was introduced in the House on April 30 by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and passed yesterday by voice vote.  H. Res. 1310 recognizes early contributions made to the development of laser by Charles Townes, James Gordon, Herbert Zeiger, Nikolay Basov, Aleksandr Prokhorov and Theodore Maiman; acknowledges the importance of the laser and laser innovation to society and the U.S. economy; and recognizes LaserFest, the science community’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first working laser.  Co-sponsors of the resolution include Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) and David Wu (D-Ore.).

“In the 50 years since its invention, the laser has become a critical technology enabling major sectors of the U.S. economy,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of OSA, one of the four founding partners of LaserFest.  “Laser devices are the core technology in many industries including transportation, healthcare, telecommunications, IT, micro-electronics and others.  We thank the House of Representatives for both understanding and recognizing the importance of this transformational innovation.”

The world’s first ruby laser was demonstrated on May 16, 1960 by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Labs in Malibu, Calif.  Today, countless laser technologies are used every day, from DVDs and barcode scanners to LASIK surgery and fiber optics for broadband Internet connections.  This year, total global sales of lasers are expected to top $5.9 billion.

“Fifty years ago, when the laser was invented using funds from the Department of Defense, the technology was referred to as a ‘solution looking for a problem,’” said Rep. Ehlers, who holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California, Berkeley.  “Today, this technology contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and is a shining example of the importance of long-term, sustainable federal funding for scientific research and development.”

After Rep. Ehlers introduced the resolution last week, it was passed by the House Science and Technology Committee, then sent to the House floor for debate yesterday.  During the debate, members of Congress spoke on the House floor about the importance of the laser, its impact on society and the need for basic R&D investments.  The House then passed the resolution, which differs from regular legislation in that it is only considered by the House and does not become law.

“Recognizing the laser’s anniversary highlights more than just the technological significance of the laser,” said Rep. Giffords.  “It also serves to showcase the tremendous benefits that federal science and technology investments can bring to society.  I am pleased to be a part of the Congressional effort to recognize this with H. Res. 1310.”

The full text of the resolution is available on OSA’s website.  Other Congressional events related to the 50th anniversary of the laser included a laser exhibit with demos and a Congressional R&D Caucus briefing on Technology, Lasers and Jobs, held last week on Capitol Hill.

About LaserFest

LaserFest, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser, emphasizes the laser's impact throughout history and highlights its potential for the future. Through a series of events and programs, LaserFest showcases the prominence of the laser in today's world. Founding Partners of LaserFest are the Optical Society (OSA), the American Physical Society (APS), SPIE, and the IEEE Photonics Society. For more information, visit

About OSA

Uniting more than 106,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and biness leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit