APS News

President, Congress Take Note of Laser Anniversary


The United States government affirmed the importance of the laser to the modern world in two separate announcements issued days before the 50th anniversary of its invention. Both the White House and the House of Representatives issued statements commemorating the milestone.

On May 12, President Obama issued an official presidential statement praising the invention of the laser. The statement commended the ingenuity of the laser’s creators and highlighted how numerous commercial and engineering applications have come out of it even though originally it was thought to have limited use outside of basic scientific research.

The presidential message was issued a week after the House of Representatives passed a resolution expressing similar sentiments. Introduced by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), H.Res-1310, Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Laser, passed the House on May 4th. The preamble highlighted the work of the many people associated with its invention and the huge economic impact it’s had over the last half-century.

The text of the resolution reads, “Resolved that the House of Representatives (1) recognizes the 50th anniversary of the laser; and (2) recognizes the need for continued support of scientific research to maintain America’s future competitiveness.”

House resolutions do not carry the weight of the law, and rarely are accompanied by corresponding motions in the Senate. They are used to express the sense of Congress about a specific topic, usually recognizing a major milestone or achievement.

The bill had six cosponsors including Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) and David Wu (D-Ore.).

APS, together with the Optical Society, SPIE, and IEEE-Photonics, is spearheading LaserFest, the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first working laser, that was constructed by Theodore Maiman and co-workers at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California on May 16, 1960. On May 16, 2010, as part of its Historic Sites Initiative, APS presented a plaque to HRL commemorating Maiman’s achievement. APS President-elect Barry Barish read President Obama’s message as part of the presentation ceremony.


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Editor: Alan Chodos