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  • President Obama Recognizes Laser’s 50th
May 2010
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2010 — President Barack Obama sent a presidential message to the founding partners of LaserFest, a yearlong initiative created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first working laser, recognizing it as “one of the most important and versatile inventions of the 20th century.”

The message was read at a special LaserFest symposium at the CLEO/QELS show in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, the day that marked the 50th anniversary of the demonstration of the first working laser by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Labs on May 16, 1960.

In his message, President Obama recognized the “intensely creative theoretical work” that led to the development of the laser, “followed by innovative engineering and a spectacular diversity of applications that have brought economic benefits unimagined at the start of the process.” He went on to say he looks forward “with real excitement to further advances in this field and new applications as yet undreamed of today.”

“We are proud to have the support of President Obama as the worldwide scientific community joins together today to celebrate the laser anniversary,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of the Optical Society of America (OSA), one of the four scientific groups that founded LaserFest. “We thank the president for recognizing the importance of the laser as a transformative and revolutionary technology.”

The presidential message will also be read for conference attendees at the CLEO/QELS plenary session on Wednesday, May 19.

A series of events commemorating the laser anniversary are taking place this week at CLEO/QELS. There will be presentations by several laser pioneers and experts, including Charles Townes, who won the Nobel Prize in 1964 for conceptualizing the maser, the precursor to the laser, and Kathleen Maiman, who will present a tribute to her late husband Theodore Maiman. The LaserFest Pavilion features a display of more than 100 lasers from the past 50 years, as well as live demonstrations of an early ruby laser.

The US House of Representatives also recently highlighted the importance of the laser with the passage of House Resolution 1310, “Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Laser.” The resolution, passed on May 5, honors early contributions made to the development of the laser by Townes, James Gordon, Herbert Zeiger, Nikolay Basov, Aleksandr Prokhorov and Maiman; acknowledges the importance of the laser and laser innovation to society and the US economy; and recognizes LaserFest.

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