Using light to describe the ancient world

William Bennett (left) and Ali Javan (right) with the first gas laser. Photo from Photo credit: Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Hecht Collection

Born today in 1930, Professor Bennett was very important to the evolution of spectroscopy: he co-invented the first gas laser. William R. Bennett Jr worked with Ali Javan to produce a laser with helium and neon as the photon source. This was not the first laser – that honour belongs to Ted Maiman’s ruby pulsed laser – but it was the first continuous laser. Pulsed and continuous? In essence, a pulsed laser delivers energy in short, regular bursts, where there is a delay between photon generation and emission. In contrast, the helium neon laser that Bennett and Javan developed in 1960 provided a continuous supply of photons. Professor Bennett developed this technology at Bell Labs, and later took up a position at Yale University, where he attracted many awards, including becoming a Life Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Professor Bennett was awarded a dozen patents, many of them stemming from his initial work with Ali Javan on lasers.

Useful followup links

Landmarks: The First Laser to Stay On

New York Times obituary



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