Gould was born in New York
1920. Inspired by Thomas
his ambition from
childhood was to be an inventor. After his undergraduate years at Union College in
Schenectady, where he majored in physics with an emphasis on optics, he
went on to Yale
for graduate work in spectroscopy and received an M.S. in physics in
1943. Toward the end of World War II, he worked at the Manhattan
Project on the separation of uranium isotopes. After the war, he
continued graduate studies in physics at Columbia University.
His studies in optical and microwave spectroscopy inspired his original
concept of laser technology, an idea which he said came in a flash one
night in 1957. He wrote in his notebook "Some rough calculations on the
of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,"
the first use of this acronym for the now familiar name. But he did not
file for a
patent until two years later, after others had applied for patents on
similar devices, and thus lost the strongest possible case for
priority. The first of Gould's basic laser patents was not issued until
1977, a full 20 years later.
The concept of stimulated emission
was formulated by Albert Einstein
in 1917. In 1954, before
anyone claimed invention of a laser, Charles H. Townes
L. Schawlow invented the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), using
ammonia gas and microwave radiation. The technology is very close but
does not use visible light. Some historions credit Theodore Maiman
with invention of the first laser, but
Gordon Gould patented the
discharge-excited laser amplifiers now used in most industrial,
commercial, and medical applications of lasers. These
devices are used in 80 percent of the industrial, commercial, and
medical applications of lasers. Gould also holds patents on several
other applications of laser technology and on applications of fiber
optic communications. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall
of Fame in 1991.
Gordon Gould died in Manhattan,
where he was born, on September 16, 2005.