OSA | Living History

OSA was a founding partner of LaserFest, a yearlong global celebration, spearheaded by Thomas Baer, 2009 OSA President,  to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser in 2010.  Through a series of events and programs, LaserFest recognized and honored the accomplishments of the pioneers who made possible the discovery, development and application of the laser, as well as informed students, educators, legislators, funding agencies and the general public about the impact of the laser and the importance of scientific and technological innovation.

The first laser was successfully operated in 1960 by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Lab. Today’s laser and all of its applications are the result of not one individual’s efforts, but the work of a number of prestigious scientists and engineers who were leaders in optics and photonics over the course of history. These include such great minds as Charles Townes at Columbia University, who developed the maser, the precursor to the laser, and Arthur Schawlow at Bell Laboratories, who along with Townes published the key theoretical paper in 1958 that helped lead to the laser’s development and who jointly were awarded the first laser patent in 1960.  


Nobel Lauretes WIlliam Phillips, John Hall, Roy Glauber and Steven Chu at the LaserFest celebration on 12 February 2010 at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC, USA.