The laser, a device named for the acronym “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” focuses light on a tight spot across a narrow spectrum of colors. Lasers are used in everyday devices like DVD players and barcode scanners and specialized applications like laser surgery and welding materials. Military and law enforcement use lasers as a tool to mark targets, measure speed and set range. From weapons to entertainment, lasers impact all corners of modern life.
Jewish American physicist Theodore Maiman successfully fired the first working laser on May 16, 1960. Of course, he wasn’t the first Jew involved in this innovation–it was Albert Einstein who established the theoretical foundations for the laser back in 1917. Today, Russian Jewish scientist Zhores Alferov continues to work in the area of semiconductor heterostructures. Alferov won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for this work, which led to the invention of the heterotransistor, a laser that could handle extremely high frequencies. At the time of the Nobel Prize, Hermann Grimmeiss of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said, “Without Alferov, it would not be possible to transfer all the information from satellites down to the Earth or to have so many telephone lines between cities.”