The start of the laser story goes back over a hundred years when in 1917 Albert Einstein suggested the concept of stimulated emission. Prior to optical lasers there were operational masers, the equivalent to lasers working in the microwave region of the spectrum, for which Charles Townes, Aleksandr Prokhorov, and Nikolay Basov were awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics. Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes, Bell Labs/Columbia University, are generally credited with ‘inventing’ the laser, although Gordon Gould is considered by many to be its inventor as he coined the term LASER (‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’) and eventually was awarded patents on many types of lasers. In 1960 Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories, USA, demonstrated the first optical laser. This was a pivotal moment globally and groups from around the world took up the challenge to develop laser systems leading to them being used in a broad range of applications.
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