75 years of Innovators: Gordon Gould

Jan. 8, 2004
Lasers can be found everywhere from industrial plants to DVD players to light shows. Engineers are constantly finding new uses for lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), an acronym coined by one of its initial developers, Gordon Gould.

In the 75 years since Machine Design began publication, here are some of the people who have changed the way we live.

Gordon Gould
Laser pioneer
1920-

The idea behind lasers came to him one night in 1957 "in a flash," during the time he was working towards his Ph.D. Believing he had to have a working model of the laser before he could patent it, he delayed filing for a patent until 1959. By then, fellow researchers Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes had already received a laser patent. But in 1977, after a 20-yr legal battle, he was vindicated with a patent on the first optically pumped and discharge excited laser amplifiers. They make up more than 80% of today's industrial, commercial, and medical lasers.

In a fortunate coincidence, Gould eventually came to suffer from a detached retina in one eye. Laser surgery using a device he helped develop, gave him back his sight in that eye.

His honors include Inventor of the Year from the Association for the Advancement of Innovation and Innovation, the John Scott Medal for inventing the laser, the Franklin Institute's Inventor of the Year, and was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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