ONR Marks 50th Anniversary of Laser Technology

Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications
E-mail: onrcsc@navy.mil
Phone: (703) 696-5031

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va. - From scalpels to corrective eye-surgery to weapons, laser technology has advanced from scientific curiosity to scientific fact since the first successful laser demonstration on May 16, 1960 by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratory. The Office of Naval Research (ONR), which has made investments in the research and development of the laser, is joining the science community as it marks the 50th anniversary of this groundbreaking device.

"ONR's contribution to the invention of the laser is well known," said Dr. Lawrence Schuette, who heads ONR's Office of Innovation. "We sponsored the Shawanga quantum electronics conference that brought laser physicist-inventors together to brainstorm the technology in 1959. ONR is proud of the record of inventions and innovations in laser technology that spans the past 50 years. One can only imagine what we'll sponsor in the next 50 years."

Researchers at ONR are applying laser technology in naval maritime defense. The Navy and Marine Corps' science and technology provider is developing a laser that promises to change warfighting at sea. Planned for the Navy's coming all-electric ship, the free electron laser weapon system has an unlimited magazine depth, precise speed-of-light capability and can engage multiple targets.

ONR also invested in the maser, the precursor technology to the laser, in the late 1940s-50s. Researchers sought a means of using short-wavelength radiation to investigate molecular structure. The result was the maser, or "microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation."  Once developed, researchers soon began work on the idea of replacing microwaves with light. The laser and its numerous commercial applications soon followed.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning, and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications
E-mail: onrcsc@navy.mil
Phone: (703) 696-5031

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