Gordon Gould, pioneer in laser development (MercuryNews)


By Sam Dolnick

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Gordon Gould, a pioneer in laser technology who coined the word “laser” and won a decadeslong struggle to secure patent rights for the most commonly used type, has died. He was 85.

He died Friday in Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of an infection, his wife, Marilyn Appel, said Monday.

Mr. Gould, a resident of Sag Harbor, on Long Island, once said that his first ideas for the laser came suddenly to him in 1957.

He sketched his thoughts in a notebook, writing, “Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” according to “Laser,” a book about Mr. Gould by Nick Taylor.

Mr. Gould invented two of the most important kinds of lasers, the gas discharge laser and the optically pumped laser, which have applications as varied as supermarket checkout counters and eye operations.

He began work on the laser in 1957 based on his graduate studies at Columbia University and first applied for the patent in 1959.

The U.S. Patent Office denied his application, sparking a legal battle that would span three decades, with scientific prestige and tens of millions of dollars at stake. (more…)