Head Piece from Maiman Laser


This object may be the first laser. It was made by Theodore Maiman and his assistant Irnee D'Haenens at Hughes Aircraft Company in May 1960.

In 1959 Maiman attended a technical conference on the subject of lasers. Maiman heard several speakers state that ruby was unsuitable for a laser but grew troubled by some of the numbers they cited. When he returned to his lab at Hughes he began experimenting. By May 1960 he and D'Haenens constructed several small metal cylinders. Each contained a photographer's spiral-shaped, xenon flashlamp that surrounded a small cylindrical crystal of synthetic ruby. When they fired the flashlamp, the burst of light stimulated the ruby crystal to emit a tightly focused pulse of light--the first operating laser.

Hughes Aircraft donated this and several other pieces of Maiman's apparatus to the Smithsonian in 1970. The crystal mounted inside this unit is from a 1961 experiment. While the donation records indicate that this is the first laser, Maiman wrote that he received the first laser as a gift when he left the company in April 1961. Several experimental models were made during the research, a common practice. So we may never know which unit actually generated the first laser light.

Date Made: 1960Associated Date: 1960

Maker: Maiman, Theodore H.Hughes Aircraft Company

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: California, Malibu

Subject: LaserInvention


See more items in: Work and Industry: Electricity, Energy & Power, Lasers, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: from Hughes Aircraft Company, thru Dr. George F. Smith

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: EM.330050Accession Number: 288813Catalog Number: 330050

Object Name: laser headlaser apparatuslaserOther Terms: laser head; Components; Telephone and Telegraph; Telephone and Telegraph

Physical Description: plastic (plate material)metal (housing material)ruby (crystal material)Measurements: overall: 4 1/2 in x 2 in; 11.43 cm x 5.08 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a5-354d-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_712855

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