Milestone-Proposal:IEEE Milestone for the Demonstration of the First Working Laser in Malibu, CA
This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone Nomination
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Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?
Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s fields of interest? (e.g. “the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering and the related arts and sciences” – from the IEEE Constitution)
Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?
Was it of at least regional importance?
Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?
Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?
Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?
Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an Electrical Engineering Milestone? Yes
Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:
Title of the proposed milestone:
IEEE Milestone for the Demonstration of the First Working Laser in Malibu, CA
Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:
In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?
Metro Los Angeles Section
IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:
IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):
Unit: Photonics Society
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public
IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:
Unit: Metro Los Angeles Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public
IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):
IEEE Section: Metro Los Angeles Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Section chair name masked to public
Proposer name: Proposer's name masked to public
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public
Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.
Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):
Proposed site would be the building where the invention occurred at the Hughes Research Lab in Malibu California.
Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.
Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.
Proposed site would be the building where the invention occurred at the Hughes Research Lab in Malibu, California.
Are the original buildings extant?
Details of the plaque mounting:
How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?
The site is private corporate property. Off hours, a gate surrounds the facility. During hours, the gate is open and a reception area can welcome visitors.
Who is the present owner of the site(s)?
The building is currently owned jointly by Boeing and Raytheon, and General Motors who bought this division of Hughes in 1985.
A letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property:
A letter or email from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application:
What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?
Theodore Maiman developed the first working laser at Hughes Research Lab in 1960, and his paper describing the operation of the first laser was published in Nature three months later. Since then, more than 55,000 patents involving the laser have been granted in the United States. Today, lasers are used in countless areas of modern life. Some examples include telecommunications, medical diagnostics and surgery, manufacturing, environmental sensing, basic scientific research, space exploration and entertainment. In the past, the IEEE has recognized the significance of the laser as being one of the key technical achievements of the 20th century.
What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?
After the Schawlow-Townes Physical Review paper was published in 1958, a furious competition ensued to build the first working laser involving institutions such as Bell Labs, Hughes Research Labs, RCA Labs, Lincoln Labs, IBM, Westinghouse, and Siemens. Most of these efforts attempted to build a continuous wave laser using electrically pumped four-level gaseous media such as ammonia. These have very low gains making it difficult to reach threshold. Higher gains could in principle be achieved in solid state media such as ruby. However, most researchers had dismissed ruby from consideration because it was a three-level system making it unlikely to achieve continuous oscillation. Maiman correctly realized that high gain pulsed oscillation could straightforwardly be achieved in ruby by optically pumping with commercial flash lamps and in May 1960 demonstrated the first laser. This laser was so easy to build that within weeks several other groups duplicated the achievement.
What features set this work apart from similar achievements?
While there were no previous lasers before Maiman’s achievement, a predecessor of the laser, called the MASER, for
References to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or citations to pages in scholarly books. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article.
Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.