n May 16, 1960, the American Theodore H. Maiman succeeded in producing the world’s first functional laser. For the first time in history, a source of coherent light was thus created — an invention with countless applications both in everyday life and in modern science. It is impossible to make sense of today’s world without the laser’s place in it.
The original of Maiman’s laser is now on exhibition at Lasers, Light, Life: From Science Fiction to High-Tech-Photonics. It is decomposed into its various parts: the aluminum cylinder, spiral flash light as well as the ruby crystal mount, which eventually enabled Maiman to amplify and bundle light in such a way that high-intensity, monochromatic radiation resulted.
You can witness this historical event by taking a look at Maiman’s original notebook, in which he documented the measurements he took on the day his experiment succeeded.
Explore also the fascinating history surrounding the invention of the laser. For Maiman’s laser was initially decried by some scientists as an ‘invention in search of an application’. With obvious sci-fi overtones, the daily press reported of a new ‘ray gun’. Maiman also struggled to publish his findings in academic journals. Even the Nobel Prize was not meant for him. The committee eventually decided to award it to the scientists who had paved the way for Maiman’s invention. That is because Maiman’s Laser was only the final piece in a big puzzle of twentieth-century physics — the first piece of which was laid by Einstein himself. This story, too, you can discover at the exhibition.
ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Center, Karl Schwarzschild-Straße 2, Garching. Free admission.