Laser Institute of America

Our History

History of the Laser and Our Members

The LIA timeline represents significant events that demonstrate advances in laser technologies. Since the 1960s the laser has come a long way, just like our very own members.

Celebrating 50 years (2018)

1968 – 2018


  • 1960
    Theodore Maiman demonstrates the laser using a ruby crystal in his laboratory.
  • 1964
    Arthur Schawlow shares Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser; initiates program of radio and infrared astronomy at University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1968
    The Laser Institute of America is founded, previously known as the Laser Industry Association.

  • 1970
    Nikolai Basov, V. A. Danyilychev, and Yu M. Popov create the excimer laser which became popular in lithography machines, and later on used in the medical field.
  • 1976
    LAGEOS-1 is launched, consisting of 2 satellites, each is a high-density passive laser reflector.
  • 1979
    Gordon Gould receives a patent covering a broad range of laser applications.

  • 1982
    CDs debut. Originally used for video technology, CDs are used for audio.
  • 1985
    Green-emitting helium-neon lasers are introduced by Melles Griot.
  • 1988
    North America and Europe are linked by first fiber-optic cable.

  • 1994
    The Quantum Cascade (QC) laser is invented at Bell Labs by Jerome Faist, Federico Capasso, Deborah L. Sivco, Carlo Sirtori, Albert L. Hutchinson and Alfred Y. Cho.
  • 1996
    The first pulsed atom laser, which uses matter instead of light, is demonstrated at MIT by Wolfgang Ketterle.
  • 1997
    Mars Global Surveyor, carrying the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, reaches Mars and begins mapping the planet's surface with a laser radar.

  • 2004
    Electronic switching in a Raman laser is demonstrated for the first time by Ozdal Boyraz and Bahram Jalali of UCLA.
  • 2009
    Laser market valued at nearly $6 billion.
  • 2009
    NASA launches LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), it uses lasers to gather data about the high and low points on the moon.

  • 2010
    Short-pulse lasers are announced by Alfred Leitenstorfer and his research group from the University of Konstanz.
  • 2010
    Rainer Blatt and Piet O. Schmidt, along with their team, demonstrate a single-atom laser.
  • 2014
    Founding Father Dr. Charles Hard Townes passes away at the age of 99.