Beam: The Race to Make the Laser

Paperback | June 9, 2010

byJeff Hecht

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Beam is the story of the race to make the laser, the three intense years from the birth of the laser idea to its breakthrough demonstration in a California laboratory. The quest was a struggle against physics, established wisdom, and the establishment itself.In 1954, Charles Townes invented the laser's microwave cousin, the maser. The next logical step was to extend the same physical principles to the shorter wavelengths of light, but the idea did not catch fire until October 1957, when Townes asked Gordon Gould about Gould's research on using light toexcite thallium atoms. Each took the idea and ran with it. The independent-minded Gould sought the fortune of an independent inventor; the professorial Townes sought the fame of scientific recognition. Townes enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, Arthur Schawlow, and got Bell Labs into the race.Gould turned his ideas into a patent application and a million-dollar defense contract. They soon had company. Ali Javan, one of Townes's former students, began pulling 90-hour weeks at Bell Labs with colleague Bill Bennett. And far away in California a bright young physicist named Ted Maiman becamea very dark horse in the race. While Schawlow proclaimed that ruby could never make a laser, Maiman slowly convinced himself it would. As others struggled with recalcitrant equipment and military secrecy, Maiman built a tiny and elegant device that fit in the palm of his hand. His ruby laser workedthe first time he tried it, on May 16, 1960, but afterwards he had to battle for acceptance as the man who made the first laser. Beam is a fascinating tale of a remarkable and powerful invention that has become a symbol of modern technology.

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Beam is the story of the race to make the laser, the three intense years from the birth of the laser idea to its breakthrough demonstration in a California laboratory. The quest was a struggle against physics, established wisdom, and the establishment itself.In 1954, Charles Townes invented the laser's microwave cousin, the maser. The ...

Jeff Hecht has been writing about lasers and optics for thirty-five years. A correspondent for New Scientist and a contributing editor to Laser Focus World, his books include: City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics (OUP, 1999; expanded and revised edition 2004), Understanding Lasers: An Entry-Level Guide (2008), Understanding Fiber ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 0.51 inPublished:June 9, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199738718

ISBN - 13:9780199738717

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Table of Contents

PrefacePrologue1. The Laser Race2. Microwaves Are the First Step3. Leaping a Few Orders of Magnitude: The Optical Maser4. The Outsider's Invention: The Laser5. Bell Labs Takes the Early Lead6. Stimulating the Emission of Money7. A Spreading Interest in the Laser Idea8. A Pause to Compare Notes9. A Dark Horse Joins the Race10. "Everybody Knew It Was Going to Happen Within Months"--Bell Labs Feels Safely in the Lead11. A Crash Program at "Pipsqueak Inc."12. The Siren Call of the Laser13. The Critical Question of Efficiency14. An Idea Simpler in Theory than in Practice15. Triumph in the Palace of Science16. An Unexpected Struggle for Acceptance17. "We Were Astounded"--A Stunned Reaction18. Runners-Up Cross the Finish Line19. EpilogueDramatic PersonaeSourcesBibliographyIndex