50th Anniversary of the Laser Celebrated

May 7, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) from 'Star Wars' is  holding a fictional  laser sword called a 'Light-saber.' The Laser is celebrating 50 years since its'  invention. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) from 'Star Wars' is holding a fictional laser sword called a 'Light-saber.' The Laser is celebrating 50 years since its' invention. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
With May 16 being the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on May 4 recognizing the day and “the need for continued support of scientific research to maintain America’s future competitiveness.”

The laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) draws its heritage from the maser, which relied on microwave radiation. Later, the device was modified to emit visible or infrared radiation, giving rise to the laser.

Charles Townes, Nikolay Basov, and Aleksandr Prokhorov were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964 for their work in quantum electronics, which led to the invention of the laser in 1960.

On May 16, 1960, Theodore Maiman introduced his invention of the laser to his fellow scientists. Today, the laser takes on an important role in telecommunication, space communication, and the medical field.

This year, it has been found that we can use lasers to detect cancer.

In a more everyday context of laser application, it's important to realize that everyone has come across barcode scanners in stores, or has seen laser shows in nightclubs, or used a laser scanner or even a laser printer. And of course, how could anyone forget the legendary laser sword fight between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in “Star Wars”?

This year, commemorating the invention of the laser, LaserFest is presenting various events and display shows in locations all over the world. LaserFest is a year-long collaboration between the American Physical Society, the Optical Society, SPIE, and IEEE Photonics Society.

On May 16th, there will be a laser show in England, an exhibition in Germany, a symposium in Canada, and a conference in California.

For details of the events, please visit the LaserFest website.