Born Jul 17 1920 - Died September 16, 2005
Optically Pumped Laser Amplifiers; Light Amplifiers Employing Collisions to Produce a Population Inversion
Patent Number(s) 4,053,845; 4,704,583
Gordon Gould coined the word laser and patented optically pumped and discharge excited laser amplifiers now used in most industrial, commercial, and medical applications of lasers.
Gould and his assignee, Patlex Corporation, now hold the basic patents covering optically pumped and discharge excited laser amplifiers. These lasers are used in 80 percent of the industrial, commercial, and medical applications of lasers. Gould also holds patents on laser uses and fiber optic communications.
Born in New York City, Gould idolized Edison, and his ambition from childhood on was to be an inventor. After his undergraduate years at Union College, majoring in physics with an emphasis on optics, he went on to Yale University for graduate work in spectroscopy. He received an M.S. in physics in 1943. During the rest of World War II he worked at the Manhattan Project on the separation of uranium isotopes to generate nuclear power. Following the war he continued graduate studies in physics at Columbia University. His studies in optical spectroscopy combined with microwave spectroscopy provided him the necessary background for germinating his original concepts of laser technology. Gould has said that his first ideas for the laser 'came in a flash' one night in 1957. He wrote these down in a notebook entitled 'Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,' the first use of this acronym for the now familiar name. However, because he misunderstood an attorney's advice, he didn't file for a patent until 1959, after other laser researchers had already filed. Since Gould's original patent application contained a number of different inventions it was put through a series of five separate interferences by the Patent Office. Thus, it was not until 20 years later, in 1977, that the first of Gould's basic laser patents was issued.