I am reading these articles and books about science and I find that there are debates on who was the real (and first) inventor of the laser. Who is the real inventor of the laser?

Please include reliable links and sources so I won't think your answer is an opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ If the credit for the invention is debated (which in this case it certainly is), this isn't the right medium for deciding who "really" invented the laser. The best we can hope to do here is summarize exactly who did what and explain why the debate exists. $\endgroup$
    – Logan M
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think the history is told in Wikipedia with sufficient detail and references. In particular, "In 1964 Charles H. Townes, Nikolay Basov, and Aleksandr Prokhorov shared the Nobel Prize in Physics, "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser–laser principle". $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


LoganM wrote

The best we can hope to do here is summarize exactly who did what and explain why the debate exists.

That's it. That's the best we can do. So I'm going to start gathering evidence for the various claimants. There's no way I can finish it tonight, but I'll start.

Gordon Gould

Gould sketched an idea for a laser in 1957 and then had his idea notarized (at a candy store, apparently). He coined the term laser in the notes beside it. He didn't build anything until 1958, and so only filed for a patent in 1959, at which point others had already patented the idea. He did announce his idea at a conference that year, but it didn't help him secure the patent.

Theodore Maiman

Maiman built the first operational laser in 1960 at Hughes Research Laboratories. His design was tiny and used ruby, but it was successful, and HRL claimed that he was the laser's inventor.

Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow

The duo had already patented their maser design in 1954. In 1958, they came up with theoretical models of a derivative of the idea using visible light, but did no further research. They are able to patent their design in 1960.

There's not a non-opinion-based definitive answer here.




National Laser Company and photonics.com





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