Physicist and inventor Ali Javan was a specialist in quantum physics and spectroscopy. He was born in Tehran in 1926 (to an Azerbaijani family from Tabriz). He began his education at the University of Tehran (1947), but dropped out and went to New York, where he audited several graduate courses at Columbia University starting in 1949.
In 1954, he received his PhD degree from there without having completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree. He continued to work in the Radiation Laboratory, where his theory of a three-level maser paved the way for important future research.
He began working for Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1958, and in 1959 he discovered the principle of the gas discharge Helium Neon (HeNe) laser, in which an electric current is discharged through a gas to produce laser light.
On December 12, 1960 at 16:20 PM, he demonstrated the laser in his laboratory. By creating the first source of continuous laser light, the gas laser laid the foundation for telecommunication via fiber optics, the key technology used in the Internet.
In 1961 Ali Javan began to work at MIT, where he carried out significant experiments and discovered new effects in the field of optical electronics. He carried out his experiments and measurements with unusual precision, and he calculated the speed of light with great accuracy.
He was a member of America’s National Academy of Sciences as well as American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he has won many highly distinguished medals and honors.
Ali Javan passed away on September 12, 2016.