Laser-sharp memories

The death this week of Charles Townes brought me back to my grad school days. It doesn’t take much, since my time in a basement lab at Fordham was one of the richest periods in my life. Gotta love those Jesuits—a mental challenge a minute!

Townes and Schawlow were household names at the time, and breakthroughs in lasers were important to those of us involved in spectroscopy.

The one I used in the early 1960s was a 200-cm tube filled with a mixture of helium and neon, with highly polished mirrors to sustain the laser action. Every morning we had to clean the mirrors to coax the long glass tube into action.

We lived for a while with only the He-Ne and the ruby laser—I know exactly where I was when news came in 1964 that an argon laser had come on line!

It was the people as much as the technology that marked my time at Fordham. I remember them all, keep in touch with many, and miss those who are gone.


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2 Responses to “Laser-sharp memories”

  1. Linda says:

    My introduction to lasers was seeing a holographic image of a chess piece at a college open house. Then I attended a telephone company demonstration in which I could put my hand in a laser beam to cut the sound off. Obviously, that was not one of the laser displays we see on television in which a laser punches a hole in a steel panel. Then there were the delicately laser-cut greeting cards. Now lasers are used in computers and video- and audio-disk players. It’s so routine nowadays that younger folks probably can’t imagine the wonder of seeing the ghostly chess piece.

  2. Miss Merry says:

    Love the photo!