Having made pioneering contributions to applied laser technology, Ali Javan's most significant invention is the helium-neon laser, the most useful and practical type of laser in use today.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Javan came to the U.S. in 1948 and earned his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University in 1954. Javan continued his research at Bell Labs, where he conceived the gas laser principle, which led him to invent a laser composed of helium and neon.
The gas laser was the first continuous-light laser, which made its use in the telecommunications industry, specifically through fiber optics technology, invaluable. The impact of Javan's invention went beyond advancing telecommunications. It made holography practical, is used in UPC code checkout scanners, and is critical for a wide range of scientific, medical, and monitoring technologies.
Javan made several other important inventions and scientific breakthroughs. He developed the first absolutely accurate measurement of the speed of light and initiated the field of high-resolution laser spectroscopy at unprecedented accuracy. Revered by scientists for his advancements in laser technology, Javan was awarded the Albert Einstein World Medal of Science in 1993.