Death of a pioneer

On Friday 16th September, Gordon Gould the inventor of the laser died. Gould claimed that the idea and principles for the laser came to him one afternoon in 1957. His lab book details his ideas on a page under the title “Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.

Gould invented two types of laser, the gas laser and the optically pumped laser, but failed to get a patent granted on the inventions until the intervention of a judge in 1987. This worked to his advantage, he was able to collect license fees on the patent at a time when the laser was popular, had the patent been granted in 1957, then it would have expired before the laser was in significant use and the revenue from the patent would have been much less.

The laser I use in my work is loosely based on Gould’s first attempts at a gas laser, but pretty much all high power industrial cuttings lasers are direct descendants of Gould’s invention.