In 1960, scientists demonstrated several different types of lasers. Unlike the light from a flashlight, laser light is of a single wavelength (monochromatic). The waves are parallel and in phase (coherent), shining in a narrow beam. Scientists used these exciting new devices to gain a better understanding of light and matter, while engineers designed revolutionary products that used laser light.

Laser Crystal, March 1962
The Museum began collecting lasers in 1963 when staff obtained this ruby crystal from Bell Telephone Laboratories. NMAH now holds almost 300 additional objects documenting this technology. (Collected 1963, Gift of Bell Telephone Laboratories)

Amateur Laser, 1964
Scientific American published plans for a do-it-yourself laser. Steven Fry, a high school student in California, followed those plans and made this helium-neon gas laser. (Collected 1985, Gift of Steven Fry)

Scientific American, September 1964
(Courtesy NMAH Archives Center)