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APSU celebrates year of the laser by honoring history prof

11/30/2010

In 1960, Hughes Lab researcher Theodore Maiman built the world’s first laser using a flash lamp to stimulate a pink ruby rod.

Then on July 21, 1963, Dr. Dewey Browder, professor and chair of the Austin Peay State University Department of History and Philosophy, took the first picture of light from a military laser while a photographer with the U.S. Army Air Defense Command.

He accomplished this feat in the infancy of the laser, which was created 50 years ago this year.

Half a century later, lasers check out groceries, read and write CDs and DVDs, guide commercial aircraft, enable eye surgery and dental repairs, target weapons, provide global communication, survey the planet, print documents and continue to impact profoundly scores of other uses in the U.S. economy.

APSU commemorated the historical development of the laser by honoring Browder with a surprise ceremony Nov. 29, with a framed poster documenting his historic achievement unveiled at the event.

Browder carried the Army rank of Specialist 5 when he became the first person to photograph successfully a laser beam, which was shining through the night some 95 miles away from Pikes Peak in Colorado. He and other soldiers were dispatched to the top of Pikes Peak at the time to assist scientists with the Boulder Laboratories of the National Bureau of Standards.

The laser – actually an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation – was a new innovation in the early ‘60s, one in which Browder didn’t expect to be taking pictures of so soon. A laser beam is a powerful, narrow, monochromatic and directional beam of electromagnetic radiation. Often, these beams are within the visible spectrum of light. A laser device excites the atoms in a lasing medium. The electrons of these atoms move to a higher orbit, then release photons, creating a laser beam. -- Melony Shemberger