Gordon Gould (1920 - 2005)
Giants of Welding Industry
16 September 2005
Gordon Gould, laser inventor, dies
The Associated Press
Gordon Gould, the pioneering scientist who coined the word "laser" and won a decades-long struggle to secure patent rights on the most commonly used type, has died at age 85.
He died Friday in Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of an infection, his wife, Marilyn Appel, said yesterday.
Gould, a resident of Sag Harbor, L.I., 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 Gould written by Nick Taylor.
Gould invented two of the most important kinds of lasers, the gas discharge laser and the optically pumped laser, which are in machines with uses as varied as supermarket checkout counters and eye operations.
He began work on the laser in 1957 based on his graduate work 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. In 1987, a federal judge ordered the government to issue a patent to him for the optically pumped laser. The judge said the Patent Office "made several material errors" in rejecting the 1959 application.
Gould underwent several operations for eye problems in 1984 and said he benefited from his own work.
"I had eye surgery to pin back a detached retina," he told The Associated Press in 1989. "You can imagine how I felt to be looking into that laser and knowing I played a part in getting it there."
Originally published on September 20, 2005