Beam : The Race to Make the Laser: The Race to Make the Laser

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Oxford University Press, Feb 11, 2005 - Science - 288 pages
2 Reviews
In 1954, Charles Townes invented the laser's microwave cousin, the maser. The next logical step was to extend the same physical principles to the shorter wavelengths of light, but the idea did not catch fire until October 1957, when Townes asked Gordon Gould about Gould's research on using light to excite thallium atoms. Each took the idea and ran with it. The independent-minded Gould sought the fortune of an independent inventor; the professorial Townes sought the fame of scientific recognition. Townes enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, Arthur Schawlow, and got Bell Labs into the race. Gould turned his ideas into a patent application and a million-dollar defense contract. They soon had company. Ali Javan, one of Townes's former students, began pulling 90-hour weeks at Bell Labs with colleague Bill Bennett. And far away in California a bright young physicist named Ted Maiman became a very dark horse in the race. While Schawlow proclaimed that ruby could never make a laser, Maiman slowly convinced himself it would. As others struggled with recalcitrant equipment and military secrecy, Maiman built a tiny and elegant device that fit in the palm of his hand. His ruby laser worked the first time he tried it, on May 16, 1960, but afterwards he had to battle for acceptance as the man who made the first laser. Beam is a fascinating tale of a remarkable and powerful invention that has become a symbol of modern technology.
  

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Review: Beam: The Race to Make the Laser

User Review  - Sarah - Goodreads

Less dry than I initially expected. Hecht throws in info about some of the scientists' leftist politics, office affairs, and science publication bungling to spice it up. But the meat of the book -- the science of lasers and the race to produce the first one -- is pretty dang cool too. Read full review

Review: Beam: The Race to Make the Laser

User Review  - Rod - Goodreads

Popularizing science is a tough business, as is evaluating the process if you know a little something about the field. I'd say the author in general does a good job of describing the work of the ... Read full review

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Contents

MAY 16 1960 MALIBU CALIFORNIA
3
1 THE LASER RACE
7
2 MICROWAVES ARE THE FIRST STEP
19
THE OPTICAL MASER
33
THE LASER
46
5 BELL LABS TAKES THE EARLY LEAD
60
6 STIMULATING THE EMISSION OF MONEY
73
7 A SPREADING INTEREST IN THE LASER IDEA
83
13 THE CRITICAL QUESTION OF EFFICIENCY
147
14 AN IDEA SIMPLER IN THEORY THAN IN PRACTICE
158
15 TRIUMPH IN THE PALACE OF SCIENCE
169
16 AN UNEXPECTED STRUGGLE FOR ACCEPTANCE
183
17 WE WERE ASTOUNDED A STUNNED REACTION
195
18 RUNNERSUP CROSS THE FINISH LINE
209
19 EPILOGUE
221
DRAMATIS PERSONAE
237

8 A PAUSE TO COMPARE NOTES
94
9 A DARK HORSE JOINS THE RACE
106
10 EVERYBODY KNEW IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN WITHIN MONTHS BELL LABS FEELS SAFELY IN THE LEAD
116
11 A CRASH PROGRAM AT PIPSQUEAK INC
127
12 THE SIREN CALL OF THE LASER
140
SOURCES
241
BIBLIOGRAPHY
259
INDEX
267
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