Laser is a catchy scientific acronym that we associate intuitively with precision and sophistication, novelty and ingenuity, power and adaptability. Since its invention more than 50 years ago, it has revolutionized and enabled a long list of technologies, from telecommunication to imaging, from lithography of integrated circuits (the brains behind electronic devices) to rapid DNA sequencing, from missile defense to printing. The first medical application of the laser, which occurred less than a year after its invention, was retinal photocoagulation; since then, its effect on ophthalmology is hard to overestimate. Now, lasers are used in all ophthalmic subspecialties; they are critical for many diagnostic and therapeutic devices.
Figure 1. Design of the first ruby laser showing its essential components: gain medium (ruby crystal), 2-mirror optical cavity, flashlamp with a power supply, and output beam. Adapted with permission from LaserFest, American Physical Society.
Figure 2. Thomas Brunner from Coherent, Inc, introducing the first commercial slitlamp-coupled argon laser photocoagulator (model 800) at the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology meeting in Las Vegas, NV, on April 24, 1970. It was developed in collaboration with scientists and ophthalmologists at the institutions then known as the Stanford Research Institute and the Palo Alto Medical Clinic.
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