Monday, October 24, 2011

Look who’s 50 in 2011: Nonlinear optics and Spectra-Physics

Gail Overton
Senior Editor
Laser Focus World

Ah, who can forget the 2010 50th anniversary celebration of the laser? Our normally docile and academic-minded photonics industry was jumping in 2010, with jubilant celebrations of Lasers in the City of Lights, a special Laser Focus World Photonic Frontiers issue celebrating 50 Years of Lasers, and even an awesome "LasersRock!" festival at CLEO 2010.

Everyone loves a celebration, and I must say I was sad to see the laser anniversary end. Fortunately, many photonics inventions and companies sprang from the invention of the laser, and 2011 continues the celebration with a number of memorable 50-year anniversaries:

50 years of nonlinear optics

At the 2011 Stanford Photonics Research Center (SPRC) Annual Symposium, attendees were treated to several special sessions highlighting 50 years of nonlinear optics. Nonlinear optics veterans Chris Ebbers and Bob Byer gave a historical perspective on the National Ignition Facility and Stanford's demonstration of the first tunable CW parametric laser via optical parametric oscillation (OPO), respectively.

50 years of Spectra-Physics

While it is not extraordinary for a technology to see a 50th anniversary, it is a much rarer event for a photonics company to see such a milestone. But just this year, Spectra-Physics, now a Newport Corporation Brand, turned 50! And on the evening of September 8th, 2011, about 180 people gathered in Mountain View, CA to celebrate the golden anniversary of the first commercial laser company. Spectra-Physics was founded by five former Varian employees and incorporated on September 8, 1961--exactly 50 years earlier.

IMAGE: The Spectra-Physics 50th Anniversary celebration drew attendees from across the laser industry and beyond. (Courtesy Newport Spectra-Physics)

All three surviving founders, Arnold Bloom, Herbert Dwight and Kenneth Ruddock were in attendance at the event.

IMAGE: Herb Dwight (left) and Ken Ruddock (right), two of the founders of Spectra-Physics, celebrate its 50th anniversary. (Courtesy Newport Spectra-Physics)

The large crowd, consisting, mostly of former employees, included 6 of the first 13, as well as many former executives and division managers of the firm. The founders and guests shared vintage photos, stories from the birth of the laser industry, and had a great evening all around. The celebration was held not far from the block in Mountain View where Spectra-Physics laser operations were centered, producing a stream of laser industry “firsts” for about 48 years.

IMAGE: Attendees sign a 50-year timeline documenting their arrival at Spectra-Physics. (Courtesy Newport Spectra-Physics)

And in 2012: 50 years of diode lasers

But wait, the celebration continues into 2012, which is the official 50th anniversary of the diode laser--those little solid-state beacons of light that have found their way into our lives in countless ways.

At the 2012 Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, held during Photonics West 2012 on Monday, January 23rd (and in my shameless plug, the ONLY event anywhere in the world that focuses on the entire laser marketplace), David Welch, executive VP and chief strategy officer of Infinera, will present "Celebrating 50 Years of Laser Diodes." Believe it or not, lasing in semiconductor diodes was first observed in 1962--two short years after the first demonstration of the laser. Join Welch at the seminar as he talks about the evolution of the diode laser business, and help Laser Focus World celebrate the numerous opportunities that the diode laser has brought to all of us in the photonics community.

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