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The Laser Odyssey Hardcover – October 30, 2000


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About the Author

Theodore H. Maiman. Listed in "Who's Who in the World". BS Engineering-Physics, Univ. of Colo.; MS Electrical Engineering, Stanford; PhD Physics, Stanford (under Nobel Laureate, Willis Lamb). Member: National Academy of Sciences; National Academy of Enginering; Fellow: American Physical Society; Optical Society of America. Recipient: Hertz Award (granted in White House ceremony by Lyndon B. Johnson); National Inventors Hall of Fame (in company with: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers). Japan Prize (dignified by the Emperor of Japan); Wolf Prize in Physics; Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of England.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Laser Pr; First Edition edition (October 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970292708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970292704
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,773,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy M. Harris on September 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the contentious arena of laser history, there is one achievement that no one disputes. Theodore Maiman of Hughes Aircraft made the first working laser. This book contains a very personal account of how he did it.
Maiman used a ruby cylinder and a flashlamp to make a pulsed laser. It was "easy" to do this in 1960 in the same sense that it would have been easy to make a tinfoil phonograph in 1877, provided only that Edison showed you how. After Maiman's breakthrough other physicists (especially those associated with maser development) implied they had published or communicated information sufficient to make the pulsed ruby solution obvious. To that Maiman replied roughly as follows: "Everyone knows there was an all-out race to make the first laser. If it was so obvious, why didn't you build it?"
During his career Maiman became acutely conscious of the dismissive attitude sometimes exhibited by academic scientists toward industrial scientists. He was in a special position to observe such prejudice because he made a major scientific advance while employed by an aerospace company. The maser, on the other hand, had come from Charles Townes and his university/Bell Labs background. Although not a source of visible light, the maser was a coherent microwave amplifier widely promoted as the device that would naturally be "extended" to make a laser (Maiman's contrary views on this point are very interesting). When Maiman succeeded there seemed to be an implicit feeling in academia that the achievement came from the wrong side of the tracks and was therefore somehow illegitimate. Perhaps the earliest clear hint of such a feeling surfaced when the editors of Physical Review rejected Maiman's paper describing the world's first successful laser!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Medical libraries and those seeking insights on the laser will find Laser Odyssey an intriguing story of Maiman's laser, which was touted as a 'death ray' with dubious applications and today is recognized as one of the top ten technological achievements of modern times. The author relates his own experiences trying to convince the scientific community his radical designs and ideas would work. Some eye-opening scenes are presented.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating book! The book provides an interesting vignette on the process of scientific invention and patents, at least in the "old days". It made me slightly nostalgic for the time of genius lone inventors who succeeded by going against the grain, not by conforming to it. The author is obviously strongly biased and presents what is probably the best spin on all events he describes, sometimes almost painfully recounting why he was right and how the establishment tried to cheat him, but the story does ring true and the reader strongly suspects that most of the political backstabbing and political machinations described actually happened, and despite it all, Maiman came out of the experience victorious but only by sheer intelligence and persistence, not because of favorable circumstances or any machievellian maneuvering.

If you appreciate the benefits of CD or DVD players, laser surgery, laser pointers, or the nearly infinite other applications of this relatively new technology, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It will probably inspire you to see the world not as it is, but as it might be.

PS On a tangentially related note, I was extremely disappointed only by the fact that the used copy of this book that I purchased here on Amazon from a bookstore across the country turned out on arrival to be a decommissioned library book from a library nearby which no longer stocked this book. Why libraries discard books of ongoing relevance for some of the less enlightening fair they stock their shelves with instead never ceases to puzzle, although one could hypothesize that the same political machinations that attempted to deny Maiman his due credit also continue to work to diminish his legacy.
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