Theodore Harold Maiman
Born Jul 11 1927
Ruby Laser Systems
Patent Number(s) 3,353,115
Physicist Theodore Harold Maiman invented the first operable laser.
While employed at Hughes Research Laboratories as a section head in 1960, he developed, demonstrated, and patented a laser using a pink ruby medium, for which he gained worldwide recognition.
The laser’s impact has rippled through numerous industries. Laser beams are being used in medicine, industry, electronic, data processing, communications, and scientific research in a myriad of ways. Doctors use them to remove tattoos and port wine stains (birthmarks), to repair detached retinas, and to perform bloodless surgery. Industry uses lasers to weld, drill, cut, seam, mark, and heat treat with the effect of high yield, excellent reproducibility, and higher throughput with consequence of improved productivity. Electronic firms use lasers to trim resistors and capacitors and to fashion and anneal transistor ‘chips’ to extremely high accuracy. Lasers are used in supermarket scanners to automate checkout; and now are used in the home in optical videodisc players. With the use of the laser, written and read-out, optical memory will increase storage capacity of computer information to 100 times the density of a magnetic disc or tape. Another innovation is the use of lasers to transmit light for miles without repeaters through hair-thin glass fibers to replace traditional wires in communication. Early on, laser beams were used to measure the 200,000 mile distance to the moon – within one inch. Many scientists predict lasers will play a significant role in harnessing the power of hydrogen ions – known as atomic fusion – in the future.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Maiman in his teens earned college money by repairing electrical appliances and radios. He attended the University of Colorado and received a B.S. in engineering physics in 1949 then went on to do graduate work at Stanford University, where he received an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1951 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1955. In 1962 Maiman founded his own company, Korad Corporation, devoted to the research, development, and manufacture of lasers. He formed Maiman Associates in 1968 after selling Korad to Union Carbide Corporation. He joined TRW in 1976 and has been responsible for directing the management of technology and the establishment of new high-technology ventures. He is also a director of Control Laser Corporation and a member of the Advisory Board of Industrial Research Magazine.