Masers and Lasers, 1951–1960



As with the transistor, which was invented in 1947, the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) was created out of interest in applying novel physical effects to amplify signals. Where the transistor amplified signals in electronics, the maser amplified electromagnetic radiation. World War II-related radar technology development had already driven electromagnetic signal transmission into the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum with devices such as the klystron and the cavity magnetron. The maser was designed to drive transmission into still smaller wavelengths. Those applications did not immediately emerge, but the novel effects that made masers work in more accessible parts of the spectrum were nevertheless of interest. By the end of the 1950s, these effects were exploited to create coherent radiations in the visible part of the spectrum, which warranted the separate name, laser (light amplified by stimulated emission of radiation).

Some Pre-Maser Research

Maser Theory and Development

By the mid-1950s, maser research and development had begun to expand markedly. Key efforts included:

Laser Theory and Realization

Following the publication of the Schawlow-Townes theory in 1958, a number of laboratories began working on the production of a functioning laser. Key efforts included:

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