Gordon Gould Biography

Physicist, Scientist (1920–2005)
Gordon Gould contributed to the invention of a Laser that uses visible light and the first use of the acronym LASER, in 1959.


Native New Yorker and physicist Gordon Gould, born in 1920, garnered fame for his work on the visible light laser and the first use of the acronym, LASER, along with the subsequent battle for its patent. Although it took Gould nearly 30 years to win his patent battles, in the end the significant expansion of lasers meant his later patents became much more valuable than the original.

Early Life and Work

Physicist, inventor and manufacturer Gordon Gould was born on July 17, 1920, in New York City, New York. He studied at Union College in New York before completing graduate work in physics at Yale. He later left to work on the atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project during World War II.

Developing the LASER

In his post-war years, he worked for various private engineering firms while teaching at different institutions, including City College of New York (1947–'54), Columbia University (1954–'57) and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (1967–'74). While working at Columbia with Charles Townes and others, he contributed to the development of the laser. He would claim greater credit for the laser than others have been willing to grant him, but he was named inventor of the year in 1978 by the Patent Office Society for his laser amplifier.

Later Years and Death

He also held patents on many of the laser devices used for industrial and medical applications. In 1974 he founded Optelecom Inc, which specializes in optical communications, retiring from the firm in 1985. Gould died on September 20, 2005, in Manhattan at age 85.

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