Home-made Laser

Description
The term “home-made laser” almost seems a contradiction but that is not the case. This gas laser was built by high school student Stephen M. Fry in 1964, only four years after Ali Javan made the first gas laser at Bell Labs. Fry followed plans published in Scientific American's "The Amateur Scientist" column in September 1964, (page 227).
The glass tube is filled with helium and neon and, as the magazine reported, "seems to consist merely of a gas-discharge tube that looks much like the letter 'I' in a neon sign; at the ends of the tube are flat windows that face a pair of small mirrors. Yet when power is applied, the device emits as many as six separate beams of intense light."
The discharge tube is the only piece of this particular laser that remains. The flat windows (called "Brewster windows") are square instead of round, and the electrodes are parallel to the gas tube instead of perpendicular. Otherwise it resembles the drawings in the magazine. Fry later earned a Ph.D. in physics with a dissertation on lasers.
Location
Currently not on view
Date made
1964
date ordered, given, or borrowed
1985-03-15
maker
Fry, Stephen M.
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
metal (electrodes material)
Measurements
overall: 2 cm x 45 cm x 6.3 cm; 13/16 in x 17 11/16 in x 2 1/2 in
ID Number
1985.0269.01
accession number
1985.0269
catalog number
1985.0269.01
Credit Line
from Stephen M. Fry
subject
Laser
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Science & Mathematics
Lasers
Energy & Power
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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