January 1916

Nutting Argues for "The Need for Applied Optics"

An address to the inaugural meeting of the Rochester Association for the Advancement of Applied Optics articulates the importance of an emerging field--and of working in a common purpose. Perley Nutting would become the Society's first president.

Photo: Perley Gilman Nutting

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

February 1916

Plans Discussed for a National Society in the US

The minutes of the Executive Council of the Rochester Association of Applied Optics note that "various plans relating to the preliminary work of the organization of a national society were discussed."

Photo: Members of the Executive Council

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

February 1916

Battle of Verdun Begins

Stretching through December 1916, the battle was one of the war's bloodiest, leading to some 300,000 deaths, and affixed an indelible mark on the French imagination.

Photo: French soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division, at Côte 304, (Hill 304), northwest of Verdun, 1916.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1916

Daylight Savings Time Introduced

Germany first instituted the practice of setting clocks forward to claim more daylight as a wartime measure; Britain and several other countries quickly followed suit.

Photo: First Daylight Savings Time; US Senate Clock being changed 1918.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1916

A Name is A Chosen

A proposed amendment to the constitution of the Rochester Association for the Advancement of Applied Optics includes a resolution that "The name of the Rochester society shall be the Optical Society of America, Rochester Section."

Photo: First Bylaws

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

November 1916

Battle of the Somme Ends

The battle - one of the costliest in history, with more than a million casualties - had lasted more than four months by its conclusion and produced no clear winner.

Photo: Troops "going over the top" at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Wikimedia Commons

December 1916

First OSA Meeting

The society's first meeting is held at Columbia University, New York, U.S., under the auspices of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Twelve papers were presented in the first meeting.

Photo: Columbia University, location of the society's first meeting

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1917

First JOSA Issue

The initial plan forecast a printing cost of "about USD 150 per month per issue of 500 copies," and a subscription price of USD 5 per year.

Photo: JOSA cover

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

January 1917

"Zimmerman Telegram" Decoded

The Temptation - a political cartoon about the Zimmerman telegram published in the Dallas Morning News.

Photo: The Temptation - a political cartoon about the Zimmerman telegram published in the Dallas Morning News.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1917

US Declares War on Germany

The United States would ultimately send some two million soldiers to the European conflict.

Photo: President Woodrow Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany, causing the United States to enter World War I.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

November 1917

Russian Revolution

An armed insurrection in Petrograd kicks off a series of events leading to the takeover of the state by the Bolshevik party.

Photo: Lenin giving a speech to the troops in 1920 in front of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater.

Photo Credit: Goldshtein / Wikimedia Commons

January 1918

Wilson's "Fourteen Points"

In a speech on "war aims and peace terms," the US president advocates a set of core principles as a foundation for lasting peace after the war's end.

Photo: Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919.

Photo Credit: E.N. Jackson, US Army Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons

March 1918

Hints of a Pandemic

Early reports from a county in Kansas, U.S., and from areas in Europe suggest a troubling increase in severe influenza cases. The 1918-1920 flu pandemic will ultimately claim 50 million lives worldwide.

Photo: Red Cross litter carriers during 1918 flu outbreak, Washington DC.

Photo Credit: National Photo Company / Wikimedia Commons

November 1918

War in Europe Ends

The armistice between the Allied powers and Germany is signed at Compiègne.

Photo: The allied representatives at the signing of the armistice in Compiègne.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1918

The Industry's Future is Discussed

At the society's third annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, a special symposium on applied optics included 18 papers on the industry's growth during wartime, the "Readjustment of the Industry to Peacetime Demands," and the broader needs of optical education and manufacturing. Eighty people attended, an extraordinary attendance for a young society in such difficult times.


Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

January 1920

Prohibition Begins

The 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, banning the sale of alcoholic beverages, comes into effect in the United States.

Photo: Removal of liquor during prohibition.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

August 1920

Women’s Suffrage Begins

On 26 August 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Photo: Tennessee Governor Albert H. Roberts (1868–1946) certifying the state's ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920. Memphis suffragist Charl Williams stands watching.

Photo Credit: Tennessee State Library and Archives / Wikimedia Commons

December 1920

Fifth Annual Meeting

The meeting, held in Chicago, Illinois, USA, is the last to be held under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Membership in the society by the time of the meeting had reached roughly 200 persons.

Photo: OSA Annual Meeting 1921.

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

January 1922

Review of Scientific Instruments

A new journal on scientific instrumentation is added as a part of each issue of JOSA.


Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

February 1922

Ulysses Appears

James Joyce's pathbreaking novel is published in Paris, France.

Photo: James Joyce, ca. 1918

Photo Credit: Photo by C. Ruf, Zurich / Wikimedia Commons

October 1922

Exhibit of Optical Instruments

The 1922 OSA meeting is the first to include exhibits of optical and scientific apparatus.

Photo: Carl Zeiss Jena Microscope

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1922

Birth of the BBC

Broadcasting in Britain began on October 18, 1922 provided by a monopoly consortium of private radio companies called the British Broadcasting Company under the direction of the Post Office. 

Photo: A license for a radio receiver granted by the British Post Office on November 3, 1922.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1922

Mussolini Seizes Power in Italy

After a march on Rome by 30,000 Fascist followers of Benito Mussolini, the Italian king hands over power to Mussolini and asks him to form a new government.

Photo: Benito Mussolini giving a speech in 1929.

Photo Credit: German Federal Archives / Wikimedia Commons

November 1923

Hitler's Failed Putsch

Adolph Hitler leads Nazi followers in the failed "Beer Hall Putsch," landing Hitler in jail.

Photo: Adolph Hitler leads Nazi followers in the failed "Beer Hall Putsch," landing Hitler in jail.

Photo Credit: German Federal Archives / Wikimedia Commons

January 1924

Highlighting Challenges Ahead

Herbert E. Ives, taking the reins as OSA president, writes a letter to the council noting that membership has grown to nearly 400 persons - but also highlighting some of the challenges, particularly financial, that the growth has wrought.

Photo: Herbert E. Ives

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1925

Helmholtz Translation Published

The English-language version of the Treatise on Physiological Optics, a key (and massive) early OSA publishing effort, was issued in three volumes in 1924 and 1925. A review in Science called the effort "one of the most notable scientific publications in recent years."

Photo: Hermann von Helmholtz

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 1925

Scopes Trial Begins

John T. Scopes, a Tennessee, USA, high school teacher, is tried for teaching evolution in violation of a state law.

Photo: Anti-Evolution League, at the Scopes Trial, Dayton Tennessee From Literary Digest, July 25, 1925.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht / Wikimedia Commons

January 1926

First Movie with Synchronized Sound Effects

First feature-length film to utilize the Vitaphone sound-on-disc sound system. It has a synchronized musical score and sound effects, but no spoken dialogue.

Photo: Don Juan is a 1926 film inspired by Lord Byron's 1821 epic poem

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Warner Borthers

January 1926

JOSA's First Editor Dies

Hermann Kellner, who had worked as an optical scientist with Bausch & Lomb and, later, in the motion picture industry, edited the journal in its first three years (1917-1919), before passing the reins to Paul Foote in 1920.


Photo Credit: OSA

January 1926

Schroedinger Publishes New Quantum Theory

In a paper in Annalen der Physik, Erwin Schroedinger presents the wave-mechanics formulation of quantum theory, including his eponymous equation.

Photo: Erwin Schroedinger

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

May 1926

A Flight over the North Pole?

Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett claim - perhaps falsely - to be the first to fly over the pole.

Photo: Fokker F.VII plane of Byrd-Bennett in flight in 1926

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1927

Metropolis Premiers

Fritz Lang's landmark film had its first showing in Berlin.

Photo: Metropolis 1927 logo

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1927

Lindbergh Crosses the Atlantic

First solo flight across the Atlantic, in the Spirit of St. Louis, makes Charles Lindbergh an international hero.

Photo: Charles Lindbergh, circa 1927

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1927

Membership Hits 450

The tally by the end of the year included 25 members from countries outside the U.S.

Photo: William E. Forsythe, 1927 President

Photo Credit: OSA Archives

February 1928

The Society's First Medal Is Endowed

Charter member and former president Herbert E. Ives endowed the medal in memory of his father, photographic pioneer Frederic Ives. The initial endowment was USD 1,000, which Ives subsequently increased to allow the medal to be struck annually. The Ives medal, honoring distinguished work in optics, remains the society's highest honor.

Photo: Frederic Eugene Ives

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 1928

The "Michelson Meeting"

An ambitious OSA annual meeting to honor A. A. Michelson, on the 50th anniversary of his landmark results on the velocity of light, is preceded by an active publicity campaign. The meeting, which included presentation of a paper by Michelson, motion pictures of Jupiter, and a demonstration of Technicolor technology, is a spectacular success, attracting some 500 attendees. The meeting's proceedings, along with a 1928 "Yearbook of the Optical Society of America" reviewing the society's history to that point, were produced in the same year.

Photo: Nobel Laureate Albert A. Michelson

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1929

First Frederic Ives Medal Awarded

Edward L. Nichols is awarded the first Ives Medal.


Photo Credit: OSA

October 1929

Onset of Great Depression

In the United States, "Black Friday" ushers in the Wall Street stock market collapse of October 1929, and heralds the onset of a worldwide economic slump that would last for a decade, until the beginning of World War II.

Photo: Crowd gathering on Wall Street after the stock market crash of October 1929

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1929

Vitamin K Discovered

The existence of the Vitamin K group was discovered by Henrik Dam while studying cholesterol metabolism in chicks.

Photo: Danish chemist Henrik Dam identified Vitamin K

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1930

JOSA and RSI Part Company

The Review of Scientific Instruments, which had been published as a section of the society's main journal since 1922, begin to be published as separate journals. Publication of the Review would be taken over by the American Institute of Physics in 1937.


Photo Credit: OSA

December 1930

OSA Membership Reaches 600

Membership in hits a landmark number.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1931

AIP Is Formed

In the United States, the Optical Society, the Physical Society, and the Acoustical Society come together to found an umbrella society for physics, the American Institute of Physics. The Society of Rheology and the American Association of Physics Teachers join AIP soon after its founding.

Photo: AIP's original logo

Photo Credit: AIP

September 1931

Japan Invades Manchuria

The Japanese imperial army would occupy the region - reconfigured as the puppet state Manchukuo - through 1945.

Photo: Japanese troops (2nd Division) entering Tsitsihar

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / By Osaka Mainichi war cameramen - World War II database

September 1932

Adolph Lomb Dies

The OSA charter member served as the society's first treasurer from its 1916 founding until his death at age 66. The same year also sees the death of I.G. Priest, OSA's 1928-29 president.

Photo: Adolph Lomb

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

October 1932

OSA Is Formally Incorporated

In a reflection of its growth, the society's legal incorporation is signed, and a new corporate seal is introduced, in New York, USA.

Photo: OSA’s seal of incorporation

Photo Credit: OSA

November 1932

Franklin D. Roosevelt Elected U.S. President

The popular governor of the state of New York scores a landslide win over predecessor Herbert Hoover, on a promise of a "New Deal" for America. Roosevelt would be re-elected a record three times and would dominate U.S. politics for the next decade.

Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1933

Hitler Sworn in as German Chancellor

The accession of Hitler to leadership began the process that would eventually result in the fall of the Weimar Republic and the establishment of dictatorial rule.

Photo: Hitler in Berlin, 1933

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

February 1933

Reviving the Colorimetry Committee

A new committee of 14 OSA members is tasked with bringing the society's out-of-print report on color up to date. It is the first step on a 20-year road that will lead, in 1953, to the publication of the landmark work The Science of Color.

Photo: The Science of Color, 1st edition

Photo Credit: OSA

December 1933

Depression Impacts Membership

For the first time since its founding, the society experiences a drop in membership, attributable to the economic malaise of the 1930s.

Photo: 1932 breadline in New York City

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1936

The Society Turns 20

OSA celebrates its own 20th anniversary and the fifth anniversary of the founding of AIP. Regular member dues: USD 7.50.

Photo: Annual Meeting from the 1930s

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1936

Early 3-D Photography

The Romanian physicist Theodor V. Ionescu patents an early form of 3-D imaging for movies and television. 3-D will not begin to capture the public's imagination, however, until after World War II.

Photo: Theodor V. Ionescu

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

November 1936

BBC Television Service Launched

The British Broadcasting Corp Television Service launched, becoming the world's first regularly scheduled public television service with a high level of image resolution.

Photo: Replica of an Emitron camera used to make the earliest 405-line programmes broadcast on the channel

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

November 1936

Birth of the "Turing Machine"

Alan Turing's intellectual construct, which he dubbed an "a-machine" (for "automatic machine"), makes its first appearance in the paper "On Computable Numbers," published in Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society.

Photo: Statue of Alan Turing, by Stephen Kettle

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1937

Frederic Ives Medal Awarded to Herbert Ives

Herbert Ives receives of the Ives Medal.


Photo Credit: OSA

May 1937

Hindenburg Disaster

While attempting to moor at a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey, USA, the hydrogen-packed German airship bursts into flame, killing 36 people and attracting enormous media attention.

Photo: Explosion of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, N.J., 6 May 1937

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1938

Membership's Geographic Diversity

Members are starting to come from across the country and around the world.

Photo: Map showing origins of members in 1938

Photo Credit: OSA

February 1938

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Described

Isidor Rabi, a Hungarian-Jewish émigré physicist at Columbia University in New York, USA, would receive the 1944 Nobel Prize for the discovery.

Photo: Isidor Rabi

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

October 1938

First Xerographic Image

After several years of experimentation in his apartment kitchen and a rented room in Astoria, Queens, NY, USA, Chester Carlson, along with assistant Otto Kornei, created the first copy executed using electrophotography — later rechristened xerography.

Photo: Replica of Chester Carlson's original Xerox copier

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1939

Hewlett-Packard Founded

The archetypal "garage start-up" opens for business, with an initial capital investment of USD $538.

Photo: Hewlett-Packard's original logo

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1939

Student Membership Established

At the February Board of Directors Meetings, student members were established as a new class of membership.

Photo: February 1939 Board Minutes

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archive

June 1939

Population Inversion Proposed

In a Ph.D. thesis on the optical properties of gas discharges, the Soviet scientist Valentin Fabrikant suggested the possibility of forcing a gas system away from thermal equilibrium to an energy state favoring stimulated emission. His work would lie fallow for more than a decade.

Photo: Example of population inversion

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

September 1939

World War II Begins

The German invasion of Poland marks the start of a cataclysmic global conflict that will last nearly six years.

Photo: German soldiers in WWII

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1939

A Second OSA Medal

To honor its late long-time treasurer and charter member, the OSA board decides to establish the Adolph Lomb Medal, to be awarded every two years to a person under the age of 30 who has made a noteworthy contribution to optics. The first medal is awarded to David MacAdam one year later.

Photo: Adolph Lomb Medal

Photo Credit: OSA

November 1939

Floyd Richtmyer Dies

A tireless charter member, JOSA editor, and an early booster of the American Association of Physics Teachers — as well as the author of the very first paper in the very first issue of JOSA — Richtmyer died unexpectedly at the age of 58.

Photo: Copy of the first issue of JOSA

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1940

Emeritus Membership Established

Emeritus Membership was offered to individuals who had been members for at least 20 years upon reaching the age of 65. Image lists the first class of Emeritus Members.

Photo: First class of Emeritus Members

Photo Credit: OSA

March 1940

Breaking the Enigma Code

The first of the British "bombes"—mechanized calculating machines designed by Alan Turing and built by the British Tabulating Machine Company — is installed at Bletchley Park, England. The decoding prowess of the bombe, and dozens of cognate machines in England and the United States, will play an important, but hidden, role in winning the war.

Photo: German Enigma Machine

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1940

Celebrating the Original Rochester Association

The 1940 meeting marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Rochester Association for the Advancement of Applied Optics, OSA's precursor organization. By the time of the 1940 meeting, OSA's membership had grown to more than 650 persons.


Photo Credit: University of Rochester

January 1941

First Digital Computer

Konrad Zuse completed Z3, the world's first working programmable, fully automatic digital computer.

Photo: Replica of the Zuse Z3 in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany

Photo Credit: Venusianer at the German language Wikipedia

January 1941

George Harrison Takes JOSA's Reins

Having finished out Richtmyer's unexpired term, the distinguished MIT spectroscoper agrees to a full term at the JOSA helm (assisted by W. F. Meggers of the Bureau of Standards). He will remain editor until December 1949 and deal with many difficult issues occasioned by the war.

Photo: George R. Harrison

Photo Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection

October 1941

War Clouds Shadow OSA's Annual Meeting

Only a few months before the U.S. entry into World War II, its annual meeting included five invited papers on optics in national defense — one of which, delivered by Vannevar Bush (left), head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) attracted an overflow crowd.

Photo: Vannevar Bush headed the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during WWII

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

March 1942

Asimov's “Three Laws of Robotics”

In the story “Runaround,” published in the March 1942 Astounding Science Fiction—and set in the distant future year of 2015—Isaac Asimov first fully articulates the famous fictional laws.

Photo: I, Robot illustrates the story "Runaround," the first to list all Three Laws of Robotics

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

December 1942

First Chain Reaction

In the squash courts of the University of Chicago's Stagg Field, a team supervised by Enrico Fermi achieved the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, giving birth to the "atomic age."

Photo: Enrico Fermi and his team achieve the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, giving birth to the "atomic age"

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

March 1943

The Norden Bombsight's Combat Debut

One of the most celebrated secret technologies of World War II, the sight — which combined an optical system with a mechanical tracking computer — had been developed by the Dutch-born engineer Carl Norden in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Photo: Norden bombsight crosshairs, 1944 English countryside

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

June 1943

First Dialysis Machine

Working in the occupied Netherlands, and improvising with materials including beverage cans and a washing machine, the Dutch physician Willem Johan Kolff creates the first working dialyzer.

Photo: 1940's era version of Kolff's machine at the Museum Boerhaave

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1943

Spectroscopy Dominates 1943 Meeting

The society's wartime meeting in 1943 included several double sessions to accommodate some 30 papers on spectroscopy. Color and astronomical optics were other key foci of the meeting.

Photo: Spectrometer from the 1940s

Photo Credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology

June 1944

Birth of Game Theory

Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, the landmark treatise by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, is published by Princeton University Press.

Photo: An extensive form game

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

February 1945

Yalta Conference

Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin meet at Yalta, in the Soviet Crimea, to decide on surrender terms for Germany and map out the future of Europe. Within two months, Roosevelt would be dead, and Harry S. Truman would assume U.S. leadership.

Photo: Yalta Conference, Crimea; Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1945

War in Europe Ends

A week after Hitler's death by suicide, the German armed forces surrender to the allies in Rheims, France, and Berlin, Germany.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1946

OSA Reaches 30

OSA celebrates its thirty year anniversary.

Photo: Happy 30th Anniversary, OSA!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1946

First Meeting of the United Nations

The U.N. General Assembly meets for the first time in London, U.K. The meeting includes representatives from 51 countries.

Photo: The first meeting of General Assembly took place at Westminster Central Hall in London, England

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

February 1946

ENIAC Unveiled

The development of the “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer,”—the first “Turing complete” electronic digital computer—is announced at the University of Pennsylvania. The work is the fruit of a previously classified project for the U.S. Army Ordnance Department.

Photo: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Glen Beck (background) and Betty Snyder (foreground) program the ENIAC in building 328 at the Ballistic Research Lab

Photo Credit: U.S. Army/ Wikimedia Commons

April 1946

Local Sections and "Unity in Diversity"

In an indication of the growth both in optics and in OSA as it begins its fourth decade, OSA President George Harrison, in an essay in the April JOSA, titled “Unity in Diversity,” invites local groups “having optical interests” to petition the society for recognition as local sections. The Detroit, Michigan, USA, local section is recognized later in the year, followed by six others between 1947 and 1952.


Photo Credit:

February 1947

Land Demos Polaroid Photography at OSA Winter Meeting

In “the most exciting part of the program,” according to the proceedings subsequently published in JOSA, Land “disclosed and demonstrated for the first time a new photographic process whereby a contact positive print is made in one minute in the camera itself.” In the same year, Land would (along with David MacAdam of Eastman Kodak) become one of OSA's first two traveling lecturers.

Photo: Edwin Land inspects a Polaroid image of himself

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

August 1947

Lamb Shift Discovered

In a landmark paper in Physical Review Letters, Willis Lamb of Columbia University and his grad student Robert Retherford report on measurements of a tiny shift in hydrogen atoms from theoretically expected levels, which come to be known as the Lamb shift. Their precise measurements provide the impetus to clear some hurdles in still-evolving quantum theory—and will earn Lamb the 1955 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Photo: Willis Lamb

Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives

December 1947


A team at Bell Labs—including William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, who would go on to share the Nobel Prize for the discovery—succeeds in creating the first point-contact transistor.

Photo: The first transistor

Photo Credit: By Windell Oskay from Sunnyvale, CA, USA (Bell Labs 004) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

May 1948

Physics Today Debuts

The first issue of the magazine—established by AIP for distribution to members of all member societies, including OSA—began with an article called “Trends in American Science” by Vannevar Bush, and included a recap of the 1948 OSA winter meeting.

Photo: Physics Today cover

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1948

First Holography Paper

In “A New Microscopic Principle,” published in Nature, Dennis Gabor first articulates his “two-step method” of imaging through wavefront reconstruction. While the method would find some initial use in electron microscopy, its optical possibilities would not start to be realized until the advent of the laser. Gabor would win the 1971 Physics Nobel Prize for the discovery.

Photo: Dennis Gabor, OSA Honorary Member

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1948

OSA Board Names Committee on Uniform Color Scales

The committee, originally vetted in 1947, was set up with a funding authorization of US $10,000 to tackle the difficult problem of color standards.

Photo: Uniform Color Scales

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1949

Columbia Records Introduces Its LP Disk

The LP (long play), or 33 1/3 rpm microgroove vinyl record, is a format for phonograph (gramophone) records, an analog sound storage medium.

Photo: An LP disk

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1949

The Cold War Begins

The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty establishes the defense pact among the U.S. and Western Europe, which initially involved 12 nations. Six years later, the Soviet Union would respond with creation of an Eastern-Bloc counterpart, the Warsaw Pact.

Photo: US President Truman signing the document implementing the North Atlantic Treaty at his desk in the Oval Office, as a number of dignitaries look on.

Photo Credit: By Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer (NARA record: 8451352) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

August 1949

Perley Nutting Dies

Nutting—memorialized in a subsequent JOSA obituary as “the leader and the moving spirit in the formation of the Optical Society of America”—was a few weeks shy of his 76th birthday at the time of his death.

Photo: Perley Nutting

Photo Credit: OSA Photo Archives

October 1949

People's Republic of China Formed

After more than two decades of civil and world war, the victorious Communist Party declares the new state, under the leadership of Mao Zedong.

Photo: Founding Ceremony of People's Republic of China.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1949

Birth of the Pre-Laser Barcode

Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland file a patent for a primitive, bull's-eye-shaped barcode and reading system. The technology is dismissed as a curiosity; as with holography, it will need to await a source of coherent light—i.e., the laser—for its immense promise to become apparent.

Photo: Silver and Woodland's bull's-eye-shaped barcode

Photo Credit: Patent office

June 1950

Toward Optical Pumping

In a paper in Journal de Physique, the French physicist Alfred Kastler suggests the concept of optical pumping—a key component of future maser and laser theory.

Photo: Alfred Kastler

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

August 1951

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger's novel, destined to become a touchstone for alienated adolescents, is first published in the U.S.

Photo: The Catcher in the Rye cover from the 1985 Bantam edition

Photo Credit: By Bantam [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

December 1951

First Nuclear Power Plant

Experimental Breeder Reactor I, a US government experimental facility in the state of Idaho, becomes the first reactor to generate electrical power—enough to operate four 200-watt light bulbs.

Photo: December 20, 1951, Argonne's EBR was used to generate electrical power. This was the first known production of electricity using the heat from nuclear fission electrical power.

Photo Credit: By ENERGY.GOV (HD.6B.015) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

May 1952

Maser Principles Described

Soviet scientists Alexander Prokhorov and Nicolay Basov outline the theoretical principles for a microwave oscillator, based on ammonia, at the All-Union Conference on Radio-Spectroscopy of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. They would publish their findings two years later, in October 1954.

Photo: Alexander Prokhorov (left) and Nicolay Basov (right)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1952

The H-Bomb Debuts

In “Operation Ivy,” the U.S. executes the first successful test of a multi-megaton thermonuclear device, on the Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The first thermonuclear test by the Soviet Union will be reported less than a year later.

Photo: The Sausage device of Mike nuclear test (yield 10.4 Mt) on Enewetak Atoll. The test was part of the Operation Ivy. The Sausage was the first true H-Bomb ever tested.

Photo Credit: By United States Department of Energy (nuclearweaponarchive.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

March 1953

A Third OSA Award Is Endowed

The Edgar D. Tillyer Medal, named for one of the society's longest-surviving charter members, honors distinguished work in the field of vision. The first medal was presented to Tillyer himself in 1954.

Photo: The Tillyer Medal

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

April 1953

The Double Helix

In an article in Nature, James Watson and Francis Crick unveil their structural model of the DNA molecule, based on X-ray diffraction work by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling.

Photo: Watson and Crick structural model of the DNA molecule

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1953

The Science of Color Is Published

The landmark work—built on more than 20 years of persistent work by OSA's Committee on Colorimetry—is recognized as an instant classic. The first edition will go through eight printings, the last in 1999.

Photo: The Science of Color

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

May 1953

Report on Clad Optical Fiber

After two years of intense research—based on a 1951 suggestion by OSA President Brian O'Brien—Abraham Van Heel submits a paper to Nature reporting on the transmission of an image through an optical fiber clad with material of a lower refractive index. It is, in the words of author Jeff Hecht, “the crucial conceptual breakthrough that launched modern fiber optics.”

Photo: Brian O'Brien

Photo Credit: OSA

December 1953

Death of Two OSA Pioneers

The December 1953 number of JOSA noted the death of Fred E. Wright (d. 25 August 1953), who served as the society's second president from 1918 to 1919, and Herbert E. Ives (d. 13 November 1953), a huge figure in OSA history who endowed the society's first medal, served as its sixth president (1924-25), and made signal contributions to its long-term stability, its efforts in colorimetry, and more.

Photo: Herbert Ives (left) and Fred Wright (right)

Photo Credit: OSA Photo Archives

December 1953

A Nobel Prize for Phase Contrast Microscopy

Frits Zernike receives the Physics prize for the method—which would go on to revolutionize biological imaging and particularly studies of the living cell—some 20 years after he initially discovered it.

Photo: Nominated for the Nobel prize. Physics, Zernike, F.

Photo Credit: By Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

May 1954

The First Working Maser

James Gordon, H.J. Ziegler, and Charles Hard Townes submit a short note to Physical Review describing “[a]n experimental device, which can be used as a very high resolution microwave spectrometer, a microwave amplifier, or a very stable oscillator”—and which, in another paper a year later, they will dub the maser. The laser revolution has begun. Charles Townes pictured.

Photo: Charles Townes and the First Maser

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1954

OSA Holds First West Coast Meeting

The conference, in Los Angeles, CA, USA, included an en route Board meeting that took place in the observation car of the Golden State Limited.


Photo Credit:

April 1955

Death of Albert Einstein

The German-born physicist, revered both among scientists and in the public sphere, is 76 years old at the time of his death in Princeton, N.J., USA.

Photo: Albert Einstein, official 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics photograph

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1956

OSA at 40

By its 40th birthday, The Optical Society had attracted a membership of 2,345. Regular member dues were USD 10 (which would increase to USD 12 by 1958).


Photo Credit: Wikicommons

July 1956

Neutrinos Observed

In a paper in Science, Clyde Cowan and Frederick Reines report the detection of the elusive particles, and confirmation of the existence of antineutrinos, in an apparatus consisting of two tanks with 200 liters of water and an array of scintillators and photomultiplier tubes. The work would win the Nobel Prize nearly four decades later.

Photo: Clyde Cohen (l) and Frederick Reines (r)

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

October 1956

A Solid-State Maser

In an article in Physical Review, Nicolas Bloembergen of Harvard University proposes a new maser design using solid-state materials in a multiple-energy-level system.

Photo: Nicolaas Bloembergen

Photo Credit: Dutch National Archives, The Hague

April 1957


At a time when punchcards are used for data entry, IBM introduces the first FORTRAN compiler. The language will go on to dominate scientific and research computing for decades to come.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 1957

Governance Crisis

In the wake of the resignation of long-serving volunteer society secretary Arthur C. Hardy (pictured left), JOSA editor Wallace R. Brode writes an editorial detailing governance changes to handle the society's increasingly rapid growth—and giving hints of the significant professionalization of OSA management that would begin to take root two years later.

Photo: Arthur C. Hardy

Photo Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

October 1957

Sputnik 1

The first artificial satellite, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in what is now Khazakstan, makes its way into Earth orbit. The event is commonly recognized as the beginning of the Soviet-U.S. “Space Race.”

Photo: Sputnik 1

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1957

Theory of Superconductivity

Nearly half a century after the discovery of superconductivity, John Bardeen (pictured left), Leon Cooper, and John Robert Schrieffer publish their “BCS theory,” the first microscopic theory of the phenomenon, in Physical Review.

Photo: John Bardeen

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1958

Anderson Localization Discovered

In 1958, Philip Anderson predicted the localization of electronic wavefunctions in disordered crystals and the resulting absence of diffusion.

Photo: Example of a multifractal electronic eigenstate at the Anderson localization transition in a system with 1367631 atoms.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1958

The International Geophysical Year

A landmark in worldwide scientific collaboration, the IGY would bring results ranging from the discovery of Earth's magnetosphere to the Antarctic Treaty for scientific cooperation in study of the southern polar regions.

Photo: Logo for the International Geophysical Year

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

March 1958

Birth of OSA Fellow Memberships

At its 51st meeting, the OSA Board of Directors approved the establishment of a new class of Fellow members, a special category of members to be elected by a two-thirds majority of the Board for having served with distinction in the advancement of optics. Photo is of Dorothy Nickerson, named to the first class of OSA fellows for her contributions in the fields of color quality control, technical use of colorimetry, the relationship between color stimuli and color perception, and others.

Photo: Dorothy Nickerson, one of the first OSA Fellows

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1958

Insights on Genetic Disease

The French scientists Jérôme Lejeune, Marthe Gautier, and Raymond Turpin establish that the genetic cause of Down syndrome is an extra copy of chromosome 21.


Photo Credit: Wikicommons

October 1958

First Transatlantic Jet Service

The British state-owned airline BOAC begins regular service from London to New York, using the world's first production commercial jetliner, the de Havilland DH 106 Comet.

Photo: BOAC plane

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1958

Toward “Optical Masers”

In a landmark paper in Physical Review, Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes lay out the resonant-cavity and pumping requirements to extend masers into the infrared and optical domains. (Photo: Charles Townes with an ammonia maser.)

Photo: Charles Townes with an ammonia maser

Photo Credit: Dan Rubin, June 1958

December 1958

Optika i Spektroskopie

OSA's Board moves forward with plans to publish a translated edition of a Russian language journal (translated title Optics and Spectroscopy, with the first publication to appear in 1959. A USD 74,750 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation would underwrite the first three years' translation and publication.

Photo: Cover of Optics and Spectroscopy

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1959

The Laser Gets Its Name

At the Ann Arbor Conference on Optical Pumping, University of Michigan, USA, Gordon Gould first publicly uses the word "laser"—a term he had coined in lab notes at the end of 1957.

Photo: Gordon Gould

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

September 1959

Professionalizing OSA's Management

The September issue of JOSA announces that spectroscopist Dr. Mary Warga of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physics (USA) has accepted an offer to become the society's first full-time executive secretary. Warga immediately sets to work setting up a permanent society headquarters in Washington, DC,USA, and working to build a governance structure that can keep up with the society's growth.

Photo: Mary Warga

Photo Credit: OSA Photo Archives

April 1960

First Weather Satellite

The United States launches TIROS 1, the first weather satellite, on 1 April, and Echo 1, the first communications satellite, on 13 May.

Photo: TIROS 1

Photo Credit: NASA

April 1960

Rabinov’s “Reading Machine”

Jacob Rabinov’s celebrated “best match” method for optically decoding characters, the basis of many subsequent real-world systems, is one of some 229 patents earned by the prolific inventor during his lifetime.

Photo: Jacob Rabinov

Photo Credit: NIST

May 1960

The U-2 Incident

The downing of a US spy plane by the Soviet Union, and the capture of its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, becomes a milestone incident in the Cold War.

Photo: A U-2 aircraft similar to the one shot down.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

May 1960

The First Working Laser

Theodore Maiman, at Hughes Research Laboratories, USA, demonstrates the first working laser. The device uses a synthetic ruby one cm in diameter, pumped by an external flashlamp. It works in pulsed mode only; several months later, Ali Javan, William Bennett, and Donald Herriott will construct the first working gas laser, capable of continuous-wave operation.

Photo: Maiman in front of an early laser

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: HRL Laboratories, LLC

January 1961

First Fiber Laser

Eli Snitzer demonstrated the first optical fiber laser.


Photo Credit:

January 1961

OSA's Executive Committee Established

In 1961, the Executive Committee was established, composed of the President, Executive Secretary, and three other board members. Wallace Brode served as President that year.

Photo: Wallace Brode

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

April 1961

First Human Spaceflights

Yuri Gagarin's single-orbit flight on Vostok 1, launched 12 April, is followed by suborbital flights by U.S. Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard in May and Virgil Grissom in July, and by a second Soviet orbital flight in August.

Photo: Yuri Gagarin

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

August 1961

The Berlin Wall

Construction begins on the iconic barrier between East and West Berlin, which will remain standing until 1989.

Photo: Construction on the Berlin Wall

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 1961

First Laser Surgery

A team at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, NY, USA, reports the first clinical use of a laser, to destroy an abnormal growth of retinal blood vessels in a patient. The procedure, while not successful, demonstrates the laser's medical potential only a bit more than a year after the laser's first demonstration.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1962

Applied Optics Appears

After a year of intensive planning and preparation, the first issue of OSA's second major journal title is published, under the editorial direction of future OSA President John N. Howard.

Photo: Cover of Applied Optics

Photo Credit: OSA

March 1962

Q-Switching Reported

F.J. McClung and R.W. Hellwarth of Hughes Research Laboratory report boosting laser power by orders of magnitude by using electrically switched Kerr cell shutters. The technique, known as quality- or Q-switching, brings lasers into the arena of industrial applications, such as welding, requiring high peak powers.

Photo: Schematic diagram of a pulsed reflector laser

Photo Credit: Appl. Opt., doi: 10.1364/AO.1.S1.000103

March 1962

Mees Medal Unveiled

At a dinner session at OSA's March 1962 meeting, a new OSA honor, the C.E.K. Mees International Medal, is announced. The medal, endowed by a donation from Mees' family, is to be awarded to scientists whose work exemplifies the international spirit of the motto on the medal's face: "Optics Transcends All Boundaries."

Photo: C.E.K. Mees International Medal

Photo Credit: OSA Photo Archives

September 1962

Diode Laser Invented

Robert N. Hall at the General Electric Research Development Center in Schenectady, New York, USA, operated the first semiconductor diode lasers 

Photo: Robert Hall

Photo Credit:

October 1962

Cuban Missile Crisis

The complex crisis begins with the observation, by an American U2 spy plane using a camera and lens designed by James G. Baker (OSA president in 1960), of Soviet nuclear-weapons deployments in Cuba, and ends with the Soviets standing down and agreeing to remove the missiles two weeks later.

Photo: Cuba - An aerial view showing the medium range ballistic missile field launch site number two at Sagua la Grande. October 17, 1962

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

December 1962

The First LEDs

In a paper in Applied Physics Letters coauthored with S.F. Bevacqua, Nick Holonyak Jr., a General Electric scientist, reports the emission of visible red light from a gallium arsenide phosphate diode—a feat that will earn Holonyak the sobriquet “Father of the LED.” A few months later, in Reader's Digest, Holonyak will predict that LED-based lights will ultimately replace incandescent lighting.

Photo: Nick Holonyak Jr.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1963

OSA Launches "Optics"

Optics--An Action Program establishes optics education and outreach as a permanent tenet of the Society.


Photo Credit: Kings College London

October 1963

Heterostructure Lasers Proposed

Herbert Kroemer in the US and Zhores Alferov in the USSR separately propose lasers created from semiconductor double heterostructures, a landmark in solid-state laser technology. Heterostructures will go on to become the the dominant lasers in communications, consumer technologies and other areas. Kroemer and Alferov will share half of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery.


Photo Credit: Wikicommons

January 1964

New Lasers Proliferate

The year sees the creation of, among others, pulsed ion lasers, which expand available wavelengths; the first fiber lasers and amplifiers; the carbon dioxide laser, which sets new industrial standards for power in a continuous-wave laser; the neodymium-doped YAG (Nd:YAG) laser, which will become a workhorse in many medical applications; and the first published report of active mode-locking, essential in developing ultrafast laser pulses.


Photo Credit:

April 1964

Laser Holograms

At Spectra-Physics, Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks offer the first display of laser holograms of 3-D objects.

Photo: The iconic photo of the holographic toy train

Photo Credit: Juris Upatnieks

May 1964

Cosmic Microwave Background

Working on the problem of radio wave detection from communications satellites, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson are surprised to discover a low-frequency background hum that would eventually be interpreted as the thermal echo of the Big Bang.

Photo: Cosmic Microwave Background

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1964

Optics—An Action Program

A symposium at OSA's 49th annual meeting reviews the status of a program established by the society a year earlier to stimulate research and education in optics—and to mark a newly energized commitment to education and outreach that would characterize the society for the rest of its first hundred years.


Photo Credit:

April 1965

Moore's Law and Optical Lithography

In an article titled “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits” in the magazine Electronics, Gordon Moore, the director of R&D at Fairchild Semiconductor, first articulates his celebrated prediction on the exponential growth of computer processing power.

Photo: Moore on the cover of Electronics magazine

Photo Credit: Electronics magazine

December 1965

An Increasingly Global Reach for OSA

By the publication of its 1965 directory, OSA's membership includes 328 individuals from 38 countries outside of North America—a tenfold increase from pre-World War II levels.

Photo: OSA Annual Meeting during the 1960s

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1966

OSA Celebrates 50 Years

Membership reaches 4,500 as the society marks half a century of service. (Photo: 1966 President Van Zandt Williams)

Photo: OSA 1966 President Van Zandt Williams celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Optical Society at the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

March 1966

Taking Stock of 50 Years

The month of March features a landmark history of OSA‘s first 50 years by Hilda Kingslake, published in JOSA, and a 50th anniversary OSA meeting in Washington, DC, USA, including invited papers by Charles Townes, Willis Lamb, and other luminaries.

Photo: Hilda Kinslake

Photo Credit: (Courtesy of University of Rochester, Rare Books and Special Collections)

April 1966

Hovercraft Service on English Channel Begins

“Hovering across the channel” would continue until the retirement of the last two vessels in October 2000.

Photo: Hoverlloyd hovercraft on an English Channel beach

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

June 1966

OSA Begins Translating and Publishing Soviet Journal of Optical Technology

Starting on seed money from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the society will subsequently continue to publish the translated journal—often at a financial loss—for decades.

Photo: Cover Journal of Optical Technology

Photo Credit: OSA

July 1966

Birth of Optical Fiber Communications

Charles Kao and George Hockham at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow, UK, discover how to transmit light over long distances via glass fibers. Kao will later receive the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics for his work.

Photo: Charles Kao in an optics laboratory at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories circa 1966, when he made crucial and extremely difficult measurements showing that pure silica had extremely low loss

Photo Credit: Nortel/Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Hecht Collection

October 1966

Kastler Wins Physics Nobel

The Nobel Committee recognizes Alfred Kastler's research on optical pumping, which was an important step toward the maser and laser.

Photo: French physicist Alfred Kastler

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

March 1967

Tunable Dye Laser

Bernard Soffer and Bill McFarland invent the tunable dye laser at Korad Corp. in Santa Clara, California., USA.

Photo: Coherent model 899 ring dye laser, with rhodamine 6G dye, pumped with a 514 nm argon laser. The laser is tuned somewhere around 580 nm.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Han-Kwang, AMOLF Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands

June 1967

War in the Mideast

The Six-Day War, between the states of Israel and an alliance of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, resets the geopolitical clock of the region.


Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

October 1967

OSA Technical Council

At the suggestion of OSA Member Lucien M. Biberman (pictured left), the society creates a council, consisting of the chairs of its growing list of ad hoc technical groups, to help shape the scientific content of OSA meetings.


Photo Credit: OSA

October 1967

Computer-Generated Holograms

In a paper in Applied Optics, D.P. Paris and Adolf Lohmann report their invention of “binary fraunhofer holograms, generated by computer.”

Photo: A holographic image from the Applied Optics paper by A.W. Lohmann and D.P. Paris

Photo Credit: OSA, Applied Optics

December 1967

First Heart Transplant

Christian Barnard performs the pathbreaking surgery in Cape Town, South Africa.

Photo: Restored scene from Dr. Barnard's first human heart transplantation

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

June 1968

Rainbow Holography

The invention of white-light transmission holography by Stephen Benton makes the mass production of holograms possible.


Photo Credit:

December 1968


On 24 December, in what will become a significant cultural touchstone—and will be called “the most influential environmental photo ever taken”—Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders captures the first color image of Earth from space.

Photo: Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders' famous 'Earthrise' photograph

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

July 1969

Humans on the Moon

US Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” leaves a human footprint on the lunar surface. Among the material left behind when he and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin return to Earth is a corner-cube mirror array that will allow the first laser-ranging measurements of the distance between the Earth and the moon.

Photo: Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

September 1969

Jarus Quinn Becomes OSA Executive Director

Quinn's 24-year tenure will ultimately bring a range of changes to the society, including the relocation of its global headquarters in Washington, DC, USA, and a significant reconfiguring of its publishing program.

Photo: OSA Executive Director Jarus Quinn

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

October 1969

Digital Imaging Begins

Willard Boyle (left) and George E. Smith (right) invent the charge-coupled device at AT&T Bell Labs, describing it as a “Charge ‘Bubble’ Device” in their notebook.


Photo Credit: Alcatel-Lucent.

October 1969

First Light for ARPANET

The first successful message is sent over the US Defense Department’s new experimental network, to Stanford University, USA, by a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. The network would ultimately evolve into the Internet.

Photo: The SDS Sigma-7 and its accompanying Interface Message Processor formed the first node on the ARPANET

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1970

World's First Jumbo Jet

A Boeing 747 flown by Pan Am, with 322 passengers and 18 crew members, makes its first commercial passenger flight to London, UK, from New York, USA.

Photo: Pan Am's Boeing 747-100

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1970

Optical Trapping Invented

In a paper in Physical Review Letters, Arthur Ashkin of AT&T Bell Labs reports the trapping of atoms using radiation pressure from laser light. The work gives rise to the field of optical tweezing and trapping, which has led to major advances in physics and biology. Ashkin was awarded 1/2 the Nobel Prize in Prize in Physics "for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems."

Photo: Arthur Ashkin

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

June 1970

Advances in Semiconductor Lasers

Groups at Bell Labs and the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute produce the first continuous-wave, room-temperature semiconductor lasers, paving the way for commercialization of fiber communications and a wide variety of other applications.


Photo Credit: Bell Labs and Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute

August 1970

Low-Loss Optical Fiber

Robert Maurer, Peter Schultz and Donald Keck of Corning report the first optical fiber with losses below 20dB/km, demonstrating the feasibility of fiber for communications.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

October 1970

OSA's Spectroscopy Award Debuts

The first award—endowed by the family of, and named for, spectroscopy pioneer and OSA Honorary Member WIlliam F. Meggers—goes to George R. Harrison.

Photo: OSA's Meggers Medal

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

October 1970

Excimer Laser Emerges

N.G. Basov and colleagues, at the USSR”s Lebedev Institute, report the invention of the “excited dimer” laser, which would become a key ultraviolet-light source.

Photo: Nicolay G. Basov

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1971

The Aswan High Dam Opens

The dam, built across the Nile River, generates hydroelectricity and has had a significant impact on Egypt's economy.

Photo: View of the Nile from Aswan Dam

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

April 1971

Free Electron Laser Outlined

In a paper in Journal of Applied Physics titled “Stimulated emission of bremsstrahlung in a periodic magnetic field,” John Madey outlines the principles for the free electron laser.

Photo: John Madey

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

December 1971

Gabor Receives Nobel Prize

OSA Honorary Member Dennis Gabor is given the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of holography.

Photo: Dennis Gabor

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

February 1972

First OSA Topical Meeting

The meeting, on Integrated Optics—Guided Waves, Materials, and Devices, is held in Las Vegas, Nev., USA, and draws 268 scientists from 11 countries. It marks the start of a highly successful OSA program of topical meetings that continues today.


Photo Credit: OSA

June 1972

DFB Lasers

Working at Bell Labs, USA, Herwig Kogelnik (left) and Charles Shank (right) pioneer the notion of using gratings to stabilize the output frequencies of semiconductor lasers. The result, the distributed-feedback laser (DFB), would become crucial to optical communications.


Photo Credit:

September 1972

Quantum Well Lasers

Charles Henry develops the concept of the quantum well—extremely thin semiconductor laser structures that improved performance because of very high quantum efficiencies.


Photo Credit:

April 1973

Mobile Phones

Motorola's Martin Cooper makes the first handheld mobile phone call in New York, NY, USA.

Photo: Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first publicized handheld mobile phone call on a prototype DynaTAC model on April 4, 1973. This is a reenactment in 2007.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

November 1973

The Beginnings of Genetic Engineering

In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen report on the creation of functional DNA plasmids that combined and replicated genetic information from different species.

Photo: Stanley Norman Cohen's genetic engineering laboratory, 1973 - National Museum of American History

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

February 1974

Mass Producing Low-Loss Fibers

John MacChesney (left) and Paul O'Conner (right) of Bell Labs apply for their first patent on modified chemical vapor deposition, the process they have developed to form ultratransparent glass that can be mass produced into low-loss optical fiber. The process remains the standard for manufacturing fiber-optic cable.


Photo Credit: OSA

June 1974

Barcodes Become Commercial

A pack of Wrigley's chewing gum is the first product read by a barcode scanner in a grocery store.

Photo: On June 26, 1974, the first product with the Universal Product Code barcode was scanned at a checkout counter. It was, historians say, a 10-pack of Wrigley's chewing gum.

Photo Credit: Curt Suplee, National Science Foundation

November 1974

Lucy Discovered

Donald Johanson discovers bone fossils of a female skeleton given the name "Lucy" and estimated to be from a time 3.2 million years earlier.

Photo: Reconstruction of the fossil skeleton of "Lucy" the Australopithecus afarensis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

February 1975

Optics News Debuts

The ancestor of Optics & Photonics News begins publishing, targeting a quarterly publication schedule.

Photo: FIrst issue of Optics News

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

April 1975

End of the Vietnam War

North Vietnamese troops capture Saigon.


Photo Credit:

June 1975

Two New OSA Awards

The society begins awarding the Ellis R. Lippincott Award, for significant contributions to vibrational spectroscopy (first recipient: Paul Julienne), and the R. W. Wood Prize, recognizing an outstanding discovery, scientific or technical achievement, or invention in the field of optics (first recipient: Juris Upatnieks).

Photo: Lippincott Award and the R. W. Wood Prize

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

July 1975

Détente in Space

A Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docks with a U.S. Apollo craft, signaling an end to the “space race” between the two superpowers.

Photo: An artist's concept illustrating an Apollo-type spacecraft (on left) about to dock with a Soviet Soyuz-type spacecraft

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

August 1975

Helsinki Accord Signed

The 35-nations agreement addresses multiple global issues including European security, human rights and East-West contacts.

Photo: Signing of Helsinki Accord

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

December 1975

Commercial Semiconductor Laser

Engineers at Laser Diode Labs create the first commercial continuous-wave semiconductor laser operating at room temperature. The CW operation will allow transmission of telephone conversations.

Photo: Semiconductor lasers (660 nm, 635 nm, 532 nm, 520 nm, 445 nm, 405 nm)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1976

OSA Turns 60

Shortly before the society's 60th birthday, its membership tops 6,500. The next ten years will see growth of more than 40% in OSA's member base—and the establishment of some of its most visible and enduring programs, from OFC and CLEO to Optics Letters and the Student Chapters.

Photo: Happy 60th Anniversary, OSA.

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

March 1976

Toward Free Electron Lasers

Stanford University, USA, researchers John Madey, Luis Elias, William Fairbank, Alan Schwettman and Todd Smith publish results in Physical Review Letters demonstrating optical gain from free electrons in a constant magnetic field. The experiment sets the stage for development of free electron lasers. (Photo: The free-electron laser FELIX at the FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen (nl), Nijmegen, The Netherlands.)


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

April 1976

A Company Called Apple

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (along with entrepreneur Mike Markkula, co-signer of a USD 250,000 loan) form Apple Computer Company.

Photo: Apple's first logo.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

June 1976

A New Source for Longwave Light

MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers Jim Hsieh, J.A. Rossi and J.P. Donnelly build an InGaAsP laser emitting continuously at 1.1 micrometers at room temperature. They publish their findings in Applied Physics Letters. This work serves as the first of many sources for long-wavelength lightwave systems.


Photo Credit: AIP

June 1976

The World's Tallest Building

The CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, opens to the public and is the world's tallest freestanding structure. In 1995, the tower is recognized as one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

Photo: The CN Tower in Toronto.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 1976

A Perfect 10

At the Montreal Olympics, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci receives the first ever perfect score. The 14-year-old would go on to win five medals, including three gold, at the Games.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Nadia Comaneci 1976 Paraguay stamp.

June 1977

GPS Launches

A NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite launches aboard an Atlas E/F rocket from Vandenburg Air Force Base, CA, USA. Developed by Roger Easton, the NTS-2 relied on a passive ranging technique and atomic clocks. The satellite laid the foundation for modern GPS systems.

Photo: NAVSTAR GPS satellite undergoing pre-launch testing.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/USAF

July 1977

Optics Letters

OSA's third journal, founded with the specific aim of providing rapid publication of cutting-edge results, begins publication under the leadership of its first editor-in-chief, Robert W. Terhune. Manuscripts were limited to three printed pages, including tables and figures.

Photo: Optics Letters

Photo Credit: OSA

July 1977

First Human MRI

Raymond Damadian, Michael Goldsmith and Larry Minkoff run the first scan of a healthy human body using their newly completed magnetic resonance imaging system at New York's Downstate Medical Center.

Photo: Early MRI

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1977

A Patent for Optical Pumping

Gordon Gould receives a patent for optical pumping. The laser industry is now worth $400 million annually and optical pumping is used in about 80% of all lasers.

Photo: A young Gordon Gould

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1977

COIL Gets its Start

W.E. McDermott, N.R. Pchelkin, D.J. Benard and R.R. Bousek demonstrate the first chemical oxygen iodine laser at the Air Force Weapons Lab.

Photo: COIL

Photo Credit: Acronymsandslang

January 1978

Aerosol Ban

Sweden becomes the first nation to announce that it will ban aerosol sprays containing chlorofluorocarbons, after reports suggest they may damage the Earth's ozone layer.


Photo Credit:

May 1978

Photosensitive Silica

Kenneth Hill and coworkers at the Canadian Communication Research Center discover the photosensitivity of germanium-doped silica. Their paper describing the finding is published in Applied Physics Letters.


Photo Credit:

October 1978

OSA's Handbook of Optics

At the 1978 OSA annual meeting in San Francisco, CA., USA, the “long awaited” volume—a joint publishing project of OSA and McGraw-Hill—is makes its first public appearance.

Photo: OSA's Handbook of Optics

Photo Credit: OSA

December 1978

LaserDiscs for Consumers

The new technology receives a somewhat tepid reaction from consumers when it hits the market.

Photo: A laserdisc (left) compared with a DVD (right)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1979

New Home for OSA Headquarters

OSA purchased 1816 Jefferson Place, Washington, DC, USA, which would be its home for the next decade.

Photo: Jarus Quinn and staff on the steps of OSA headquarters on Jefferson Place in Washington, DC, USA.

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1979

Poster Papers Debut

Poster Papers are added to OSA meetings.

Photo: Poster Session during an FiO meeting

Photo Credit: OSA

March 1979

OFC Connects the World

The Optical Fiber Communications conference, which would grow into one of the world's largest meetings on fiber optics and optical communication, grew out of an earlier event, the Optical Fiber Transmission meeting.


Photo Credit: iStock

March 1979

A New Format for Music

Philips demonstrates a compact disc audio player and optical disk. Working with Sony, Philips achieves a final disc diameter of 12 cm and a final resolution of 16 bits. This work set the standard for digital optical recording systems.

Photo: Sony CDP-35 Compact Disc Player

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

June 1979

MITI Initiates Optoelectronics Project

Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) initiates the Optoelectronics Joint Research Laboratory as a six-year research project between industry and the government.


Photo Credit:

December 1979

VCSELs Achieved

Haruhisa Soda, Ken-ichi Iga, Chiyuki Kitahara, Yasuharu Suematsu develop an AsP/InP surface emitting semiconductor laser, publishing their work in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics. Vertical cavity surface emitting lasers will prove a key component in high-speed networks. (Photo: Diagram of a simple vertical cavity surface emitting laser diode (VCSEL). Not to scale.)


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1980

OSA's New Treasurer

F. Dow Smith, 1974 OSA President, and also a long-time member of the Finance and Investment Committee, is appointed treasurer.

Photo: F. Dow Smith

Photo Credit: OSA

May 1980

A Volcano Awakens

Mt. St. Helens (Washintgon, USA) erupts. The lateral blast releases 24 megatons of thermal energy. The eruption clouds reaches 80,000 feet in less than 15 minutes.

Photo: Mt. St. Helens

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1980

Honoring Charles Hard Townes

A new OSA award in the laser pioneer's name is established “for outstanding work in the field of quantum electronics.” The first two recipients: James Gordon and Herbert Zeiger, Townes” collaborators on the first maser.

Photo: OSA's Charles Hard Townes Medal

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1981


The iconic annual Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics gets its start from the merger of two earlier meetings, the Conference on Laser Engineering and Applications (begun in 1967) and the Conference on Laser and Electro-Optical Systems (begun in 1976).

Photo: Powerful green laser of the University of Leiden

Photo Credit: Bryan Tong Minh/Wikimedia Commons

October 1981

Nobel Prize Recognizes Laser Spectroscopy Research

Nico Bloembergen and Art Schawlow receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for “their contributions to the development of laser spectroscopy.”

Photo: Art Schawlow (left) and Nico Bloembergen

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 1981

Lasers For Biology

Samuel Blum, Srinivasan Rangaswamy and James Wynne observe the effect of ultraviolet excimer laser light on biological materials. They determine that the laser makes precision cuts that may be useful for surgery.

Photo: Laser Surgery

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1982

Holograms on Credit Cards

VISA begins putting holograms on its cards to discourage forgery.

Photo: Visa Card

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1982

Max Born Award Established

The Max Born Award recognizes contributions to physical optics.

Photo: Max Born

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1982

New Award

The Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize is established to recognize significant accomplishments in optical engineering.

Photo: Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize

Photo Credit: OSA

February 1982

Laser Lithography Laid Out

Kanti Jain publishes the first paper and gives the first talk on excimer laser lithography.

Photo: Kanti Jain

Photo Credit: ECE Illinois

March 1982

OSA's First Student Chapter

In the March-April 1982 edition of Optics News, OSA announces “the birth of its latest offspring”: the first of its student chapters, started on the petition of nearly 40 students from the University of Rochester, NY, USA. Over the next 34 years, the program will grow to encompass more than 350 chapters distributed worldwide.

Photo: OSA's Student Chapter at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico 

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1982

Ti:Sapphire Lasers Come Online

Peter Moulton of MIT's Lincoln Lab, USA, reports on the first Ti:Sapphire laser to generate short pulses in the picosecond and femtosecond ranges. The laser replaces dye laser for tunable and ultrafast applications.

Photo: A Tsunami Ti:sapphire oscillator.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 1982

First Commercial Music CD

Singer Billy Joel's “52nd Street” compact disc is released commercially in Japan ushering in what would become a major shift in how consumers listen to music.

Photo: American singer/songwriter, Billy Joel's CD

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 1983

AIDS Virus Isolated

French doctors isolate the human immunodeficiency virus, which is responsible for AIDS. This marks the beginning of research to develop treatments for the disease.

Photo: Stylized human immunodeficiency virus.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1983

Stereolithography Invented

Charles "Chuck" Hull invents stereolithography, the forerunner of 3-D printing. He received a patent for the technique in 1986.

Photo: Stereolithography parts assembled, a cycloidal drive.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 1983

A Tool to Amplify DNA

Kary Mullis develops the polymerase chain reaction—sometimes called “molecular photocopying—a technique to create thousands of copies of a specific sequence of DNA. He would win the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work. PCR would revolutionize molecular biology research, laying the foundation of the genomic and biotechnology revolution.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

June 1983

Reshaping the Cornea with Lasers

Ophthalmologist Stephen Trokel and IBM researchers Rangaswamy Srinivasan and Bodil Braren conduct experiments on reshaping the cornea with excimer laser light. They publish their findings in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in December, launching the field of laser-based refractive surgery.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1984

JOSA Becomes Two Journals

Sixty-seven years and more than 63,000 published pages after its first issue, the flagship journal of The Optical Society splits into two separate editions—JOSA A, focused on “Optics and Image Science,” and JOSA B, covering “Optical Physics.” The transition is deftly managed by new JOSA editor-in-chief Robert W. Terhune, fresh from completing his tenure at the helm of Optics Letters.

Photo: The last issue of JOSA before splitting into JOSA A and JOSA B

Photo Credit: OSA

December 1984

Winding Down British Rule in Hong Kong

Margaret Thatcher and Zhao Ziyang agree that the Britain will transfer Hong Kong back to China in 1997.


Photo Credit:

March 1985

A New Leader for the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the Soviet Union. He transforms domestic and foreign policy.

Photo: Mikhail Gorbachev

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 1985

Optical Molasses

Steven Chu and colleagues at Bell Laboratories, USA, create “optical molasses,“ using laser beams to slow and manipulate atoms. The group also developed the first optical trap to hold chilled atoms in place. Chu will share the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, then at the Collège de France, and William D. Phillips, at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, who also did pioneering work in optical trapping and sub-Doppler cooling.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 1985

Windows 1.0

Microsoft Corporation releases its first version of Windows.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1985

Chirped Pulse Amplification

Donna Strickland and Gerard Mourou demonstrate chirped pulse amplification of femtosecond laser pulses. The technique increases laser peak power and enables the field of relativistic optics. In 2018, they shared 1/2 of the Nobel Prize in Physics “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses."

Photo: Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1986

OSA Begins Eighth Decade

The next ten years will see a relocation to the society's current headquarters, a 75th-anniversary celebration, the expansion of CLEO to new regional meetings, and OSA's first forays in a new medium, the World Wide Web.

Photo: Eight Years for OSA

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

April 1986

Nuclear Disaster Strikes the USSR

The Chernobyl nuclear reactor explodes, releasing radioactive material across much of continental Europe.

Photo: The nuclear reactor after the disaster. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

May 1986

No Need for Electronic Repeaters

Bell Labs researcher Linn Mollenauer describes an all-optical fiber system that transmits signals using optical solutions. He predicts that a single fiber could deliver 100 Gbit/sec over thousands of kilometers without electronic repeaters.

Photo: Linn Mollenauer

Photo Credit: Wikicommonns

July 1986

Say Cheese

Fujifilm develops QuickSnap, a disposable camera that uses 35-mm film. Kodak follows a year later with the Fling, based on a 110 film cartridge.

Photo: Kodak disposable camera.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

July 1986

Board of Editors Established

In a change to the organization's by-laws, OSA creates a new board responsible for coordinating editorial and journal activities, with the chair of the board to sit on OSA's board of directors. Previously, individual journal editors had sat on the board.

Photo: Anthony DeMaria served as the first Chair of Board of Meetings.

Photo Credit: Courtesy John W. Thomlinson, Princeton, NJ

August 1986

John Tyndall Award Founded

The August issue of Optics News announces the creation of an award to recognize “outstanding contributions to fiber optic technology.” The first recipient of the annual award, the following January, is Robert D. Maurer of Corning Glass Works, for his work in the materials and techniques for glass fiber waveguides.

Photo: Robert D. Maurer of Corning Glass Works is the first recipient of the John Tyndall Award

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

September 1986

Er-doped Fiber Amplifiers

Sir David Payne and his colleagues at the University of Southampton, UK, develop an erbium-doped fiber amplifier with a peak gain of 26 dB at 1536 nm. This is the start of practical all-optical transmission.

Photo: Erbium-doped fiber with green light.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1987

Easy on the Eyes

Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson, introduces Acuvue, disposable soft contact lenses for the consumer market. The company’s patented stabilized soft molding process makes mass production possible.

Photo: One-day disposable contact lenses with blue handling tint in blister-pack packaging.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

October 1987

Advancing Engineering

Recognizing a changing membership, and a changing industry, OSA establishes an engineering council in late 1987, and subsequently endows an Engineering Excellence Award that is first presented in 1989, and subsequently is named to honor Paul Forman.

Photo: Engineering Excellence Award

Photo Credit: OSA

December 1987

Reducing Missile Threats

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington, DC, USA. The document eliminates nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles.

Photo: U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in the East Room at the White House in 1987.

Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Library / Wikipedia

January 1988


The Soviet Union initiates perestroika, a restructuring program aimed at improving the Soviet economy.

Photo: Perestroika postage stamp, 1988

Photo Credit: Andrei Sdobnikov / Wikipedia

January 1988

Fiber Laser

Polaroid researchers led by Elias Snitzer develop a high power double clad offset core neodymium fiber laser.

Photo: Eli Snitzer working at American Optical in 1964.

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

November 1988

An Internet “Worm”

Robert Tappan Morris of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, launches the first computer worm. The Morris worm distributes itself throughout the Internet.

Photo: Disk containing the source code for the Morris Worm held at the Computer History Museum.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1988

A New Prime Minister for Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto becomes the first woman to lead the government of a predominately Islamic state.

Photo: Benazir Bhutto

Photo Credit: iFaqeer / Wikipedia

March 1989

Massive Oil Spill

The tanker Exxon Valdez spills 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound (USA) after running aground. The worst spill ever at the time, the incident kills an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 otters and 300 harbor seals.

Photo: The Exxon Valdez aground on Bligh Reef.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

April 1989

Cold Fusion?

In a paper in a journal of electrochemistry, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman reported that they had accomplished nuclear fusion at room temperature—a claim that was subsequently widely debunked as other scientists were unable to replicate their results. “Cold fusion” subsequently became a shorthand term for fanciful or junk science.

Photo: Time Magazine highlights "Cold Fusion"

Photo Credit: George Frey

June 1989

Heading Across Town

OSA relocates to a new building at 2010 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC, USA (near the city's famous “Embassy Row)“—the site of its global headquarters ever since.

Photo: OSA Meeting Attendees Outside of OSA Headquarters

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

October 1989

Nobel Prize in Physics

Hans Dehmelt shares the Nobel Prize in Physics with Wolfgang Paul for the ion trap, a method of precisely measuring ions and subatomic particles.

Photo: Hans Dehmelt (left) Wolfgang Paul (right)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 1989

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Citizens demolish sections of the cement curtain between East and West Germany. Their hand tools are soon replaced by bulldozers.

Photo: A crane removes a section of the Wall near Brandenburg Gate on 21 December 1989.

Photo Credit: F. Lee Corkran / Wikipedia

January 1990

Divvying Up Applied Optics

OSA's key applied-science journal splits into three sections: Optical Technology (renamed Optical Technology and Biomedical Optics in 1995), Lasers & Photonics (renamed Lasers, Photonics and Environmental Optics in 1992), and Information Processing.

Photo: Cover of Applied Optics from the '90s

Photo Credit: OSA

January 1990

ON Becomes OPN

As part of a larger proposal to rename OSA “The Optics and Photonics Society,” the flagship magazine of the society, Optics News, is renamed Optics & Photonics News. Ultimately, members decide against the society's name change—but the rechristening of the magazine sticks.

Photo: First cover Optics & Photonics News

Photo Credit: OSA

February 1990

The Beginning of Apartheid's End

As part of the dismantling of apartheid, South African President F.W. de Klerk releases activist Nelson Mandela from prison.

Photo: De Klerk and Mandela shake hands at the World Economic Forum, 1992

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

April 1990

All Eyes on Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope launches into a low Earth orbit. It is a cooperative effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute. Hubble cost USD 2.5 Billion to build.

Photo: The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) begins its separation from Space Shuttle Discovery following its release on mission STS-82.

Photo Credit: NASA / Wikimedia Commons

October 1990

Revealing the Human Genome

The Human Genome Project begins.

Photo: DNA replication.

Photo Credit: DOE Human Genome project / Wikimedia Commons

August 1991

Here comes the World Wide Web

On the internet newsgroup alt.hypertext, CERN computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee publishes “a short summary of the World Wide Web project,” the combination of desktop browser software and flexible communication protocol that would subsequently reshape worldwide communications. The first web site, info.cern.ch, runs on a NeXT computer at CERN.

Photo: This NeXT Computer was used by Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world's first web server.

Photo Credit: Coolcaesar at en.wikipedia

August 1991

A Soviet Coup

A coup in the Soviet Union leads to the house arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev. The action draws worldwide condemnation—and countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and Belarus begin to declare their independence from the USSR.

Photo: Tanks in Red Square during 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

September 1991

Dead Sea Scrolls Access

The Huntington Library in Los Angeles, CA, USA, makes the Dead Sea Scrolls available for examination by qualified scholars.

Photo: A portion of the second discovered copy of the Isaiah scroll, 1QIsab.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

November 1991

A 75th Anniversary Celebration

In its annual meeting in San Jose, California, OSA marks three quarters of a century of growth. Highlights include a 75th anniversary symposium featuring luminaries such as Nicolaas Bloembergen, Herwig Kogelnik and Arthur Schawlow, and “How I Got into Optics” and “Optics in 1916” exhibits in the meeting's main exhibit hall.

Photo: OSA 75th anniversary logo

Photo Credit:

November 1991

Optical Coherence Tomography

In a celebrated paper in Science research team including James Fujimoto, Carmen Puliafito, Kenton Gregory, David Huang, Eric Swanson and others reports on the first demonstration of optical coherence tomography, a noninvasive imaging method that uses light to reveal cross-sections of tissue. The technique would subsequently grow into an extremely important commercial technology and platform.

Photo: Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) image of a sarcoma.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1991

End of the Cold War

The USSR's legislative body, the Supreme Soviet, formally dissolves the Soviet Union.

Photo: Changes in national boundaries after the end of the cold war.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1992

Exoplanets Exist

Radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announce discovery of two planets orbiting Pulsar PSR 1257+12. These are the first exoplanets ever detected.

Photo: Artist's concept of PSR B1257+12 system.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1992

AIDS Concert

Over 1 billion people view the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium, which raises millions of dollars for AIDS research.

Photo: Poster of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, Wembley Stadium.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

July 1992

World Record for Data Storage Density

Working with Carnegie Mellon colleagues, Eric Betzig and a Bell Labs team squeeze 45 billion bits of data into a square-inch of disk space using a novel magneto-optical data storage technique. The bits were as small as 60 nm.

Photo: Eric Betzig

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

September 1992

A New OSA Medal Honors Entrepreneurship

OSA and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T) establish the annual Edwin H. Land Medal, recognizing pioneering entrepreneurial creativity.


Photo Credit:

January 1993

Recognizing Educational Excellence

OSA establishes the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal to acknowledge contributions to education in optical science and engineering.


Photo Credit: OSA

January 1993

European Union Comes into Force

The signed Maastricht Treaty initiates the European Union. Treaty provisions include creation of the "euro," the union's common currency, as well as its governing bodies—the Commission, Parliament and the Court of Justice.

Photo: Flag of Europe

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

May 1993

Jarus Quinn Retires

After nearly a quarter-century of service, OSA's long-standing executive director ends his tenure at OSA. In recognition of the immense growth and change at the organization during his leadership, he is awarded the society's Distinguished Service Award. By the end of the year, OSA will rename its top award the Frederic Ives Medal/Jarus Quinn Prize create an endowment fund in Quinn's name to increase this prestigious award's cash value.

Photo: Jarus Quinn, OSA's long-standing executive director

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1993

David Hennage Appointed OSA Executive Director

After the retirement of Jarus Quinn, David Hennage was named Executive Director. He will remain in the position until 1997.


Photo Credit:

September 1993

Homing in on Single Cell Imaging

Eric Betzig and colleagues use near-field scanning optical microscopy to generate high-resolution fluorescence images of cytoskeletal actin within mouse cells. This work suggests the possibility of imaging single fluorescent molecules.

Photo: Co-localization microscopy with GFP and RFP fusion proteins (nucleus of a bone cancer cell) 120.000 localized molecules in a widefield area(470 µm2)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

December 1993

Fixing Hubble

Equipped with COSTAR, the optical solution to Hubble's fuzzy vision, Hubble transmits stunning images of the solar system. Ball Aerospace completed the COSTAR project in just 28 months.

Photo: COSTAR being inserted into Hubble during First Servicing Mission.

Photo Credit: NASA

March 1994

Quantum Dot Lasing

Nikolai Ledentsov demonstrates operation of a quantum dot laser with high density at the A.F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute.

Photo: Nikolai Ledentsov

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 1994

Elections in South Africa

The first fully multiracial elections are held in South Africa, signaling the end of apartheid. Nelson Mandela is elected president.

Photo: Nelson Mandela casts his vote.

Photo Credit: Wikicommons / Paul Weinberg

May 1994

The Chunnel

The tunnel between France and England running under the English Channel opens. It took 15,000 workers and 7 years to complete but permits travel between the two countries in just 35 minutes.

Photo: Tunnel exit at Manche à Coquelles, France.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

September 1994

CLEO's Global Footprint

The top conference in lasers and optoelectronics holds the first of its new non-U.S. CLEO-branded meetings, CLEO/Europe, in Amsterdam, Netherlands on [date]. The following year, the first CLEO/Pacific Rim will be held in Chiba, Japan.

Photo: 1992 OSA President Joe Goodman and IEEE-LEOS President Don Scifres sign the agreement that established CLEO/Europe.

Photo Credit: OSA Historical Archives

December 1994

Wading into the Web (and More)

OSA moves into the new communications vehicle, the World Wide Web, and ups its game in electronic communications with its OpticsNet web site; its initial e-newsletters OSA Contents and OSA Early Notice, also appearing in 1994; and its first CD-ROM, delivered in 1995 and including the entire 1994 volume of Optics Letters as well as the Optics Index.


Photo Credit:

May 1995

Extending Nuclear Nonproliferation

Over 170 countries sign an indefinite extension to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.


Photo Credit:

June 1995

Super-cool Atoms

Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman at the University of Colorado, Boulder NIST-JILA lab create the world's first Bose-Einstein condensate in a super-cooled gas of rubidium atoms. Shortly thereafter, Wolfgang Ketterle, working at MIT, identifies key properties of the condensate. All three share the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.

Photo: Bose Einstein condensate

Photo Credit: NIST/JILA/CU-Boulder

January 1996

OSA Turns 80

Happy 80th OSA!


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

February 1996

Computer Beats Chess Grandmaster

IBM’s Deep Blue defeats chess champion Gary Kasparov for the first time, winning a six-game match.


Photo Credit:

July 1996

Detecting Cancer with Lasers

B.F. Overholt, M. Panjehpour and Tuan Vo-Dinh report on the first use of laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy to detect cancer in patients with Barrett's esophagus.


Photo Credit:

July 1996

A Cloning Milestone

Researchers in the UK announce the birth of Dolly, a sheep and the first mammal cloned from the cell of an adult animal. She lives for seven years.

Photo: Dolly the sheep, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

September 1996

Test Ban Treaty Adopted

The United Nations adopts a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty prohibiting nations from testing nuclear explosions above or below ground.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

October 1996

An Increased Policy Focus

Acting on a priority of 1996 OSA President Duncan Moore, the society's board approves a new Public Policy Committee, to be appointed starting in 1997, that will oversee activities including “member education, congressional/agency relations, and coalition building.”


Photo Credit: OSA

November 1996

Lasing with Matter

MIT's Wolfgang Ketterle demonstrates the first pulsed atom laser. Rather than a beam of light, the atom laser's output is a beam of atoms.

Photo: Wolfgang Ketterle

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

January 1997

Seeing the Blue Light

Shuji Nakamura, Steven DenBaars and James Speck of the University of California, Santa Barbara,USA, announce development of a gallium-nitride laser that emits bright blue-violet light in pulsed operation, and helps pave the way toward practical LED lighting.


Photo Credit: iStock.com/Tihis

February 1997

Honoring "the Father of the LED"

At its meeting at OSA's annual Leadership Conference, the OSA Board establishes the Nick Holonyak Jr. Award, to recognize significant contributions to optics based on semiconductor materials.

Photo: Nick Holonyak Jr. in his laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ill., USA.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

June 1997

"Wingardium Leviosa"

J.K. Rowling publishes the first book in the "Harry Potter" series, launching a highly successful franchise that ultimately will include books, movies, merchandise and a theme park.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 1997

Touchdown Mars

NASA's Pathfinder probe lands on Mars, 20 years after the Viking probe. Launched 4 December 1996, Pathfinder contains a stereoscopic camera with spatial filters. The probe's Sojourner rover includes an Alpha Proton X-ray spectrometer. This mission initiates a new era of interplanetary exploration.

Photo: Sojourner, the Mars Pathfinder robotic Mars rover that landed on July 4, 1997 and explored Mars for around three months.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / NASA

July 1997

Optics Express Debuts

The journal is OSA's first all-electronic publication, and the first open-access journal in the physical sciences. The year 1997 also sees the introduction of an online version of Optics Letters.


Photo Credit: OSA

October 1997

Nobel for Cooling and Trapping

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Steven Chu and William Phillips receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.


Photo Credit: OSA

November 1997

Stock Market Crash

Stock markets around the world crash in response to the global economic crisis. NYSE officials invoke the “circuit breaker” rule and halt trading.

Photo: FTSE 100 Index (July 19, 1987, to January 19, 1988).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1998

Two New Awards

The January 1998 issue of Optics & Photonics News notes that OSA and the photonics supplier New Focus Inc. have teamed up with two new awards: The OSA Leadership Award/New Focus Prize, which recognizes individuals whose actions “outside the technology arena” have made contributions to society; and the OSA New Focus Student Award, recognizing leadership among student members. Presentation of the Student Award will end in 2008; the Leadership Award, rechristened to honor Robert E. Hopkins, remains a part of OSA's awards program today.

Photo: New Focus award

Photo Credit: OSA

June 1998

All OSA Journals Online

JOSA A, JOSA B and Applied Optics become available on the web, joining Optics Express and Optics Letters. The development means that all of OSA's primary journals are now available online.


Photo Credit: OSA

July 1998

Thorner Takes the OSA Helm

John A. Thorner, a professional with a background in law, journalism and nonprofit-association management, begins his tenure as OSA's executive director. He will remain in the post only three and one-half years.


Photo Credit:

July 1998

Laser Approved LASIK use

A design put forward by Frederic B. Kremer, M.D., of Photomed, Inc., becomes the first laser to be approved by the U.S. FDA for the LASIK procedure.

Photo: LASIK Surgery

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 1999

OSA International Council Goes to Work

Formed in October 1998 via an upgrade to the existing International Advisory Committee, the Council signals the society's renewed strategic commitment to be "the world's leading society for optics and photonics."


Photo Credit: Wikicommons

January 1999

Blackberries on the Market

The first Blackberry hits the market and integrates email and web browsing. The devices are so named because their rounded keys resemble the seeds of blackberry fruit.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

March 1999

Around the World in 20 Days

Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon, without stopping. They travel 40,814 km in the Breitling Orbiter 3 powered by propane gas and helium.

Photo: Bertrand Piccard's Breitling Orbiter 3 on display in the Gasometer Oberhausen.

Photo Credit: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

March 1999

Crippling Computer Virus

The Melissa.A virus, a fast-spreading internet "worm" that attacks through the Microsoft Word software package, makes its first appearance as an e-mail attachment. Some estimates suggest that the worm ultimately infected up to 20% of all computers worldwide.


Photo Credit: Wikicommons

July 1999

Recording TV, Digitally

TiVO and ReplayTV introduce digital video recorders at the Consumer Electronics Show. The price for one unit, including six hours of video storage, is USD 995.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

September 1999

Merger Vote Fails

After nearly two years of discussion and work by a dedicated task force, and despite substantial support by 1999 OSA President Anthony Siegman, OSA members vote down a proposal to merge the society with SPIE-ensuring that OSA will remain an independent entity.


Photo Credit:

March 2000

The Bubble Bursts

Fueled by explosive growth of the Internet and related tech, the “dot-com” bubble, which began in 1998, reaches its peak with the U.S. NASDAQ composite index hitting 5132 and with stock markets in other industrialized nations also hitting high points. For the next two years, technology companies will lose more than $5 trillion in value.

Photo: The NASDAQ Composite intex spiked in the late 1990s and then fell sharply as a result of the dot-com bubble.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

May 2000

E-Publishing Milestones

OSA's new integrated database for its optical research, Optics InfoBase, debuts before the 2000 CLEO meeting. The year 2000 also sees the implementation of a new online journal submission and management system.


Photo Credit: OSA

October 2000

Communications Nobel

Zhores Alferov, Herbert Kroemer and Jack Kilby receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for basic work on information and communication technology. Alferov and Kroemer split half the prize for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed communications and optoelectronics. Kilby receives half the prize for his work on the integrated circuit.


Photo Credit:

January 2001

A Web Encyclopedia

Wikipedia launches as the first user-generated online encyclopedia.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

August 2001

The PillCam

Given Imaging introduces the first commercial pill-sized endoscopic capsule camera. The US FDA-approved device visualizes the entire small bowel and detects abnormalities.

Photo: Endoscopic capsule

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

September 2001

Terror in the United States

A series of suicide attacks in the U.S. leave 3,000 dead and demolish the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and a section of the Pentagon.

Photo: Battery Park City and the former Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

October 2001

Bose-Einstein Work Recognized

Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle receive the Nobel Prize for Physics for demonstrating Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms and for fundamental studies of the properties of condensates.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

November 2001

Apple, the Musical

Apple Computer launches the iPod, a line of portable media players. The product is extremely popular.

Photo: Classic click-wheel iPod.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Jared C. Benedict

November 2001

The Attosecond Barrier

A team including Paul Corkum and Ferenc Krausz achieve attosecond soft x-ray pulses, enabling exploration of the dynamics of electronic processes.


Photo Credit:

January 2002

OSA's First African-American President

Anthony M. Johnson, a leader in ultrafast optics and an active OSA volunteer, takes the reins as OSA President for a one-year term. During his tenure, OSA membership will pass the 15,000 mark.

Photo: OSA 2002 President Anthony M. Johnson

Photo Credit: OSA

January 2002

A Currency for Europe

The Euro becomes the official currency of 12 of the European Union Member nations, and becomes, after the U.S. dollar, the world's second-most-traded currency.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 2002

Slowing Down Light

Alexey Turukhin and colleagues from MIT, the Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute in Korea and the Air Force Research Lab, Hanscom, describe slowing light down and then stopping it inside an optical crystal, Pr:YSO.


Photo Credit:

March 2002

A New Executive Director

After the departure of John Thorner, Elizabeth A. Rogan, who has previously served for nearly a decade as OSA's deputy executive director and chief operating officer, is appointed executive director on an interim basis. Subsequently she will be named permanent executive director and, later, CEO of the society.

Photo: Elizabeth A. Rogan appointed Executive Director

Photo Credit: OSA

March 2002

Social Networking Comes to the Web

Friendster launches, becoming the first social-networking site on the Internet. The following year, Time magazine names it one of the 50 coolest Web sites of the year.


Photo Credit:

September 2002

OSA Foundation Established

At the OSA annual meeting in Orlando, FL, USA, the society's board votes to establish the OSA Foundation, a charitable arm set up to “focus on the long term and enhance OSA’s ability to respond to the challenges of the next 100 years in the optics and photonics profession.” The Foundation's first chair is Gary Bjorklund, a past president of OSA. The year 2002 also sees the launch of the education and training sites OpticsForKids.org and OpticsEducation.org—and sees student membership rise 36%.

Photo: Gary Bjorklund, OSA 1998 president and the Foundation's first chair.

Photo Credit: OSA

April 2003

SARS Virus Spreads

The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus spreads from China, Singapore and Vietnam. Worldwide, nearly 9,000 people are infected in 15 countries and over 800 die.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

May 2003

Optical Camouflage

Susumu Tachi, Masahiko Inami and Naoki Kawakami at the University of Tokyo develop a retro-reflective material coated with tiny reflective beads that allows a wearer to blend into surroundings. The system includes cameras to project the background onto the foreground and vice versa.

Photo: An invisibility cloak using optical camouflage by Susumu Tachi.

Photo Credit: Z22/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

July 2003

Creating Fast and Slow Light

University of Rochester researchers Matthew Bigelow, Nick Lepeshkin and Robert Boyd produce "slow" and "fast" light in an alexandrite crystal at room temperature. The team reduces the group velocity of light to just 91 meters per second and makes a laser pulse travel faster than 299,792,458 meters per second.

Photo: Robert Boyd with his slow light in ruby experiment.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / University of Rochester Public Relations / Elizabeth Lamark

September 2003

Laser Flight

Researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, AL, USA, and the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, USA, successfully set aloft the first laser-powered aircraft. The balsa wood plane has a 1.5-m wingspan and weighs 311 g. A ground-based laser delivers power to specially designed photovoltaic cells onboard.

Photo: With a laser beam centered on its panel of photovoltaic cells, the lightweight model plane makes the first flight of an aircraft powered by a laser beam.

Photo Credit: Tom Tschida / NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center

October 2003

"Frontiers in Optics"

OSA's annual meeting is rechristened with the name it bears today. The reformatted meeting draws 1,300 attendees-and sees a 12% increase in paper submissions.


Photo Credit: OSA

November 2003

Last Flight of the Concorde

The Concorde makes its last commercial flight, traveling from New York to London. On board are model Christie Brinkley and actress Joan Collins. Touchdown brings an era of supersonic travel to a close.

Photo: The last ever flight of any Concorde, 26 November 2003. G-BOAF flying over the Bristol area before final landing on the Filton (Bristol) runway from which she first flew in 1979.

Photo Credit: Adrian Pingstone / Wikimedia Commons

January 2004

OSA's First European President

In a tangible sign of the society's increasingly international orientation, Sir Peter L. Knight, the distinguished optical scientist from Imperial College London, UK, begins his presidential term.

Photo: OSA 2004 President Peter Knight, London, U.K.

Photo Credit: OSA

February 2004

Facebook Network

Mark Zuckerberg launches "TheFacebook.com" as a way for college students to connect.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

March 2004

Hubble Helps Date the Cosmos

The Hubble Space Telescope provides Ultra Deep Field data revealing nearly 10,000 galaxies and helping astronomers date the universe to 13 billion years.

Photo: Hubble Deep Field (full mosaic) released by NASA on January 15, 1996.

Photo Credit: NASA / Wikimedia Commons

June 2004

Fabricating Ultrasmall Optical Elements

Princeton University, USA, researchers achieve photocurable nanoimprint lithography that produces lines of polymer resist just 5 nm wide with a pitch of only 14 nm. The advance helps improve fabrication of subwavelength optical elements as well as single-molecule devices.


Photo Credit:

August 2004

Google IPO

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, owners of Google, offer shares of their company to the public for the first time.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

October 2004

Silicon Raman Laser

Ozdal Boyraz and Bahram Jalali at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA, demonstrate the first silicon Raman laser. It operates at room temperature with a 9-W peak power at 1675 nm. In contrast to traditional Raman lasers, the pure silicon Raman laser can be tuned directly to transmit data.


Photo Credit:

December 2004

Deadly Earthquake

The strongest earthquake in four decades shakes Indonesia, weighing in at magnitude 9.3. The resulting tsunamis hit Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia. Nearly 300,000 die.

Photo: Countries most affected by the tsunami, with the earthquake's epicenter.

Photo Credit: Wikicommons

December 2004

Optics Express Takes Off

During 2004, submissions to the journal balloon by 175%, and articles published nearly double.


Photo Credit:

February 2005

Check out YouTube

Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim launch the video-sharing site “YouTube.” In just a year, the site reaches 100 million views per day. In 2006, Google purchases the site for $1.65 billion in Google stock.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April 2005

An Optical Superlens

Xiang Zhang and colleagues at the University of California-Berkeley develop an optical superlens that breaks the diffraction limit. The ultrahigh resolution technology could revolutionize the fields of optical imaging, lithography and high density data storage.


Photo Credit: Univ. of CA, Berkeley

August 2005

Record-breaking Laser Diode

Researchers at Jenoptik Laserdiode in Germany create a diode bar that emits 454W of continuous wave infrared light. The achievement is about 100 W higher than previous records set in 2004. The bar is 1 cm long and 2 mm high.

Photo: Unmounted semiconductor laser diode bars made at Jenoptik Diode Lab in Berlin

Photo Credit: 2005 JENOPTIK Diode Lab GmbH

October 2005

Quantum Nobel

Roy Glauber, John Hall and Theodor Hansch share the Nobel Prize for Physics. Glauber receives half of the prize for his contribution to the quantum theory of coherence. Hall and Hansch share the other half for contributions to development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique.

Photo: Roy Glauber, Ted Hänsch and Jan Hall in a light-hearted moment with Susan Houde-Walter at the 2005 Frontiers in Optics meeting, Tucson, Ariz.

Photo Credit: E.W. Van Stryland

November 2005

A Woman Chancellor for Germany

Angela Merkel is sworn in as Germany’s first woman chancellor. She would also become President of the European Council and only the second woman to chair the G8.

Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 2006

OSA Begins 10th Decade

The eventful next ten years will include new journals, LaserFest, the International Year of Light, and a Centennial celebration—and will see OSA's international membership grow to more than 19,000.

Photo: 2006 President Eric Van Stryland at OSA's 90th Anniversary Celebration during FiO 2006

Photo Credit: OSA

May 2006

Recognizing Great Books

The May issue of OPN announces the winners of the first Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award, presented jointly by OSA and SPIE to recognize outstanding books in optics and photonics. The first recipients are OSA Fellow Harrison Barrett and Kyle Myers, for their work Foundations of Image Science.

Photo: Joseph Goodman

Photo Credit: OSA

June 2006

Honoring a Holography Pioneer

OSA presents the first Emmett N. Leith medal, to recognize “recognizes seminal contributions to the field of optical information processing.”

Photo: Holography pioneers Emmett Leith (left) and Juris Upatnieks in 1965.

Photo Credit: Juris Upatnieks

July 2006

Tweeting to Communicate

Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass launch Twitter, a social-networking platform in which users communicate via 140-character "tweets."


Photo Credit:

July 2006

The Buzz of Tesla

Upstart electric carmaker Tesla introduces its Roadster, a USD 110,000 two-door sports car with an electric powertrain and a Lotus body shell. Its range is 245 miles on a full charge.

Photo: A Tesla Roadster in Redwood City, California.

Photo Credit: BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

October 2006

A Silicon Laser

John Bowers and Mario Paniccia of Intel announce demonstration of the first electrically powered hybrid silicon laser using standard silicon manufacturing processes.

Photo: Intel Labs Fellow Mario Paniccia (at right) with Professor John Bowers of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Photo Credit: Intel Free Press

October 2006

Google Buys YouTube

Google buys YouTube for USD 1.65 Billion in stock. YouTube has 65 employees and one of the largest followings on the Internet.


Photo Credit:

January 2007

Apple's Talk of the Town

Apple’s Steve Jobs debuts the first iPhone at Macworld in San Francisco, CA, USA It is released for public sale on 29 June.

Photo: First Generation iPhone

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 2007

The IONS Project

The brainchild of then-Ph.D. students (and active OSA Student Chapter members) Armand Niederberger and Giovanni Volpe, the International OSA Network of Students (IONS), a global network for young scientists, holds its first meeting, in Barcelona, Spain. The initial meeting attracts 15 students. The IONS program will expand into a student-led initiative including hundreds of participants and multiple meetings worldwide each year.

Photo: Participants at the first IONS meeting at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, in January 2006.

Photo Credit: ICFO-OSA Student Chapter

June 2007

Recognizing Excellence in Quantum Optics

OSA partners with the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG) to establish the Herbert Walther Award, which recognizes “distinguished contributions in quantum optics and atomic physics as well as leadership in the international scientific community.” The biennial award will first be awarded in 2009.

Photo: Theodore W. Hänsch and Herbert Walther at a 1980 Conference in China.

Photo Credit: Aram Mooradian

July 2007

A Bionic Hand

Touch Bionics launches the i-limb hand, the first powered prosthetic hand with articulating fingers.


Photo Credit:

July 2007

Farewell Harry Potter

The world says goodbye to Harry Potter as JK Rowling publishes her final book in the boy wizard series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. The book broke records as the fastest-selling book ever, selling 15 million copies during the first day following its release.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

January 2008

A new DBA for OSA

OSA began doing business as The Optical Society in recognition of the fact that OSA is now a worldwide community of professionals and students drawn from academia and industry alike--one not focused merely on the community in North America, but on the entire world.


Photo Credit:

September 2008

Smashing Atoms

The Large Hadron Collider begins proton beam tests. The world’s largest single machine, located near Geneva, Switzerland, is a collaboration of more than 10,000 scientists and engineers from more than 100 countries.

Photo: Tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Organization for Nuclear Research

Photo Credit: Julian Herzog / Wikimedia Commons

January 2009

Advances in Optics and Photonics Launches

OSA debuts its first journal of reviews and tutorials, Advances in Optics and Photonics. Within five years, it will become one of the top three journals in optics and photonics as ranked by citations and impact factor.


Photo Credit: OSA

May 2009

Last Service Mission to Hubble

The final service mission for the Hubble Space Telescope launches on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle delivers the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3 as well as guidance equipment and a new thermal blanket.

Photo: The fifth and final space shuttle mission to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Photo Credit: NASA

June 2009


OSA works with IEEE to merge the latter organization's JSAC series on Optical Communications and Networking (OCN) and the OSA Journal of Optical Networking (JON). The result is the Journal of Optical Communications and Networking (JOCN), which launches in June 2009.


Photo Credit: OSA

June 2009

Pandemic Declared

The World Health Organizations declares H1N1 a global pandemic. The virus, never before identified in animals or people, threatens vulnerable populations and causes 17,000 deaths.

Photo: Negative stain EM image of the swine influenza A/CA/4/09

Photo Credit: C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDC / Wikimedia Commons

June 2009

Mapping the Moon

NASA launches the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) equipped with a laser altimeter. The LRO will use the device to map the moon’s surface.

Photo: Artist concept of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Photo Credit: NASA

October 2009

A Nobel Nod to Fiber Optics and the CCD

The Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Charles Kao for groundbreaking achievements related to the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication and Willard Boyle and George Smith for inventing the charge-coupled device.

Photo: Charles Kao in an optics laboratory at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories circa 1968, when he made crucial and extremely difficult measurements showing that pure silica had extremely low loss.

Photo Credit: Nortel/Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Hecht Collection

January 2010


A yearlong celebration begins, to mark the epoch-making impact of the laser in its 50th anniversary year. OSA is a founding partner, along with SPIE, the American Physical Society, and the IEEE Photonics Society. The festival ultimately draws extensive media coverage and 100 corporate and private partners.


Photo Credit:

January 2010

Scaling New Heights

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, opens in Dubai.

Photo: Construction of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Photo Credit: Imre Solt / Wikimedia Commons

March 2010

Single-atom Laser

A high-finesse optical cavity consists of two mirrors, which traps and accumulates the photons emitted by the ion into a mode. The ion is excited cyclically by an external laser and at each cycle a photon is added to the cavity mode, which amplifies the light.

Photo: Rainer Blatt and Piet Schmidt and colleagues at the University of Innsbruck demonstrate a single-atom laser.

Photo Credit:

April 2010

A Murky Sky

Volcanic ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland closes airspace over most of Europe.

Photo: Overview of the 2nd fissure on Fimmvörðuháls, close to Eyjafjallajökull.

Photo Credit: Boaworm / Wikimedia Commons

August 2010

Biomedical Optics Express Posts Its First Issue

Within a few short years, the online-only, open-access journal will become one of the highest-impact publications in biophotonics. Also during 2010, Optics Express launches a special bimonthly section/virtual journal, Energy Express, focusing on optics and photonics research in energy and environment.


Photo Credit: OSA

January 2011

ThorLabs: 1 Millionth Customer Served

In 2011, OSA Centennial Diamond Sponsor, ThorLabs, reached the milestone of serving their 1 Millionth Customer.


Photo Credit: ThorLabs

January 2011

Deepening OSA's Industry Ties

The society announces a strategic partnership with the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA), a preeminent organization representing the optoelectronics industry. OSA's ties with OIDA will evolve in subsequent years; by 2015, OIDA will be relaunched as OSA Industry Development Associates, becoming a channel for OSA membership, participation and leadership across optics and photonics industries.


Photo Credit: OSA

March 2011

Natural Disaster Sparks Nuclear Meltdown

An earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan triggers a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The event is the second most dangerous nuclear disaster in history after Chernobyl.

Photo: Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

Photo Credit: kawamoto takuo / Wikimedia Commons

May 2011

Optical Materials Express

Continuing its roll-out of open-access, rapid-publication journals serving important niches in optics, OSA launches a new publication “designed to meet the needs of researchers working in the very broad area where optics and materials science overlap.”


Photo Credit:

May 2011

A Nanoscale Waveguide

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, USA, create a new quasiparticle called a hybrid plasmon polariton, a nanoscale waveguide for next-generation on-chip optical communication systems.


Photo Credit:

July 2011

End of An Era

NASA closes the book on the Space Shuttle program with the touchdown of Atlantis. The final shuttle carries TriDAR, a 3D dual-sensing laser camera that provides guidance information for rendezvous and docking in orbit. In all, the space agency launched 135 shuttle missions.

Photo: Space Shuttle Discovery approaching the International Space Station during STS-128. The TriDAR 3D navigation system is the box visible just above the docking interface.

Photo Credit: NASA/Expedition 20

November 2011

Honoring Jarus Quinn

OSA confers its highest accolade, Honorary Membership, on the man who, as executive director, had done so much to build and shape the society. The honor comes only nine months before Quinn's death in August 2012.

Photo: Jarus Quinn and staff on the front steps of OSA Headquarters on Jefferson Place, Washington, DC.

Photo Credit: OSA

July 2012

Found: The Higgs Boson

After a 50-year search for the Higgs boson, it's revealed in an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery completes the standard model that explains how fundamental particles obtain mass.

Photo: Simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

Photo Credit: Lucas Taylor / CERN

August 2012

Landing on Mars

Curiosity, NASA’s Mars rover, lands on the red planet’s surface. The touchdown marks the beginning of a two-year study of the planet to determine if it could have sustained microbial life.

Photo: NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture this set of 55 high-resolution images, which were stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

October 2012

“Essential Technologies”

A group of U.S. scientists—co-chaired by future OSA President Alan Willner—issue a report for the U.S. National Research Council, Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation, outlining grand challenges for photonics in the decades again, and recommending the creation of an U.S. initiative for photonics analogous to the country's National Nanotechnology Initiative.


Photo Credit:

January 2013

Lunar Laser Transmission

For the first time, scientists use a laser to transmit data to the moon, when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter receives an image of da Vinci's “Mona Lisa” sent from Earth.


Photo Credit: NASA

May 2013

Launching the NPI

Following up on the recommendations of the U.S. National Research Council's landmark 2012 “Essential Technologies” report, OSA partners with four other optics and physics societies to create the National Photonics Initiative—“a collaborative alliance seeking to unite industry, academia and government experts to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security.”


Photo Credit:

May 2013

Viewing the Brain with CLARITY

Karl Deisseroth and Kwanghun Chung describe CLARITY, a new method for mapping the brain based on hydrogels. Using the technique, scientists can view the intact brain with fine detail.

Photo: A 3-dimensional image taken via the CLARITY technique showing a 1 millimeter slice of mouse Hippocampus. The different colors represent proteins stained with fluorescent antibodies.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

June 2013

Photonics Research Debuts

OSA launches a new open-access journal, in partnership with the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, China.


Photo Credit: OSA

September 2013

Carbon Nanotube Computer

Subhasish Mitra and Philip Wong of Stanford University, USA, develop a computer based on carbon nanotubes. By growing the computer’s 178 transistors on a quartz wafer, the researchers are able to align 99.5 percent along the crystal’s regular structure.

Photo: A scanning electron microscope image of a portion of the carbon nanotube computer.

Photo Credit: PBS

July 2014

Miniaturizing Confocal Microscopes

Christopher Contag and colleagues at Stanford devise a method to miniaturize 3-D scanning confocal microscopes and Raman endoscopes to produce real-time views of cellular activity. The advance could make possible a point-of-care device for disease analysis.

Photo: Christopher Contag

Photo Credit: Stanford

July 2014


OSA publishes the first issue of a new online open-access journal, specifically devoted to the rapid publication of high-impact papers in optics and photonics. Within only a year, Optica will be listed among the top ten journals in optics and photonics in impact factor.


Photo Credit:

August 2014

The Siegman School's First Session

Supported by corporate sponsors and the OSA Foundation, the first session of a biennial summer session on laser science honoring one of OSA's most beloved presidents, the late Tony Siegman, takes place at his home campus, Stanford University, USA.

Photo: Anthony E. Siegman

Photo Credit: OSA

December 2014

A Milestone for the OSA Foundation

Twelve years after its creation—in the wake of dedicated efforts in fundraising and investment to boost its global mission of securing optical science's next generation, and despite the impact of the 2008 financial crisis along the way—the Foundation's net assets exceed USD 10 million for the first time.


Photo Credit: OSA

January 2015

International Year of Light 2015 Begins

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, in which OSA is a founding scientific partner, kicks off with a gala opening ceremony in Paris, the “City of Light.”

Photo: IYL Opening Ceremony, Paris, France

Photo Credit:

March 2015

Contact Lens Measures Glucose Levels

Google receives a patent for a contact lens that senses blood glucose levels and transmits them to a display device. The company is partnering with Alcon, a division of Novartis.

Photo: A contact lens records blood sugar levels from tears.

Photo Credit: Google Lens

December 2015

Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Nearly 200 countries approve the Paris Climate Accord, the first agreement to require countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

January 2016

OSA Reaches Its Hundredth Year

As it commences its Centennial celebration, OSA can count more than 19,000 members from 100 countries; a global network of 358 Student Chapters and 21 Local Sections; management of some 45 conferences and meetings, including some of the most important events in optics and photonics; 17 peer-reviewed journals providing 40% of citations and 35% of published articles in optics and photonics; a burgeoning industry membership program; and many other accomplishments. It has come a long way from its 1916 beginnings among a small group of optical scientists in Rochester, NY, USA.


Photo Credit: OSA

February 2016

“Light the Future”

Ira Flatow, the host of public radio's popular “Science Friday” program, is the first speaker in a yearlong series highlighting optics as an enabling technology for the future.


Photo Credit: OSA

February 2016

Listening for Gravitational Waves

Physicists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announce their discovery of gravitational waves.

Photo: Illustration of two black holes colliding.

Photo Credit: The Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes project / www.black-holes.org

February 2016

NASA announces a discovery of a possible second 'Earth' along with a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

Photo: This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have

Photo Credit: JPL-Caltech

February 2016

First Class of OSA Ambassadors Announced

In recognition of OSA's Centennial, the OSA Ambassadors program was created. It's a new professional development benefit for student chapters and young professionals. The program launched with 10 Ambassadors who are emerging leaders within the field of optics and photonics.

Photo: OSA 2016 Ambassadors

Photo Credit: OSA

March 2016

Mary Lou Jepsen -- Light the Future Keynote

Mary Lou Jepsen, Executive Director of Engineering, Facebook, OSA Fellow, explores the future of mobile communications on 23 March 2016 during a public presentation at OFC 2016.

Photo: Mary Lou Jepsen

Photo Credit: OSA

March 2016

Virtual Reality for Consumers

Oculus VR releases the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to consumers. The organic light emitting diode display provides 1080 X 1200 resolution per eye and a tracking system that does its job by sensing light emitted by infrared LEDs integrated into an external unit. The first headsets sell for $599.

Photo: Oculus Rift Driver

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Nan Palmero

June 2016

A Swiss Tunnel

Switzerland’s Gotthard tunnel opens. It is the world’s longest at 57 km and most expensive costing 11 billion euros.

Photo: Eastern tube in the Gotthard Base Tunnel at the Amsteg construction site.

Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons

June 2016

Light the Future with Ray Kurzweil, Inventor, Author, Futurist

Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author, futurist, gave a public presentation on 'Business and Society in the Age of Accelerating Returns' at CLEO, Wednesday, 8 June 2016, moderated by Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate, former U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Photo: Ray Kurzweil and Steven Chu

Photo Credit: OSA

July 2016

Joe Izatt and Bernard Kress headline Light the Future at Imaging Congress

Joseph Izatt, professor of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, and OSA Fellow and Bernard Kress, Microsoft "Lighting up the Future of Medical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy" and "The Light Years Ahead: How Today's Promising Augmented and Virtual Reality Markets Help Shape new Optics Frontiers"

Photo: Joe Izatt testing Bernard Kress's Virtual Reality

Photo Credit: OSA

August 2016

Susana Marcos at Light the Future

Susana Marcos, Professor of Research, Instituto de Óptica, Consejo Superior Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain gave a talk titled "An Eye into the Future" at the Latin American Optics and Photonics Conference.

Photo: Susana Marcos

Photo Credit: robin7rojo@hotmail.com

October 2016

First Recipient of the Treasurer's Award Named

OSA announces the selection of Deborah Herrin for the first annual Treasurer's Award. This annual award recognizes an employee who has made significant contributions to the Society.

Photo: Ian Walmsley and Debbie Herrin

Photo Credit: OSA

October 2016

FiO Marks OSA's Centennial

A very special edition of OSA's annual meeting includes special celebrations to mark OSA's launch into its second century.

Photo: A Big Celebration in Rochester

Photo Credit: OSA

October 2016

Seven Nobel Laureates Participate in Ignite the Future at FiO 2016

Michio Kaku, futurist and theoretical physicist, City College of New York, with Sir Peter L. Knight, emeritus professor, Imperial College, London, OSA Fellow. This program also featured a special Ignite the Future segment where predictions of what’s next in optics will be given by Nobel Prize winners, including Nicolaas Bloembergen, Robert F. Curl, Roy J. Glauber, John L. Hall, W.E. Moerner, William D. Phillips and David J. Wineland.

Photo: William D. Phillips, Nicolaas Bloembergen, Roy J. Glauber, Robert F. Curl, W.E. Moerner, David J. Wineland and John L. Hall.

Photo Credit: OSA

November 2016

Steven Chu speaks at ACP's Light the Future Program

Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate, former U.S Secretary of Energy and OSA Fellow, gave a public presentation at ACP on Thursday, 3 November 2016 as part of OSA's Light The Future speaker series. Dr. Chu gave an exhilarating talk about energy, biomedicine and optics and photonics research that will have a profound effect on the global economy and our everyday lives.

Photo: Steve Chu

Photo Credit: OSA

December 2016

OSA Names Headquarters for Jarus Quinn

OSA announces that its headquarters building will be named for Jarus Quinn, who served as OSA's first Executive Director from 1969-1994. (Photo: Jarus and his daughter Kristen in 2006)

Photo: Jarus Quinn and his daughter Kristin outside of OSA headquarters in 2006

Photo Credit: OSA

December 2016

Sir David Payne headlines Light the Future

Sir David Payne, University of Southampton, Highfield highlighted the enabling technologies and noted that the Optical Fiber Internet is perhaps the greatest gift photonics gave to mankind.

Photo: Sir David Payne

Photo Credit: OSA

December 2016

OSA Foundation Receives US $1 Million Centennial Donation

Entrepreneur, Milton Chang, Incubic Management, LLC, and his wife Rosalind donate US $1 Million to create a professional development program. This offering will highlight the potential career opportunities outside the traditional roles in industry, government or academia.

Photo: Milton Chang

Photo Credit:

January 2017

Optics Letters turns 40

Since 1977, Optics Letters (OL) has been advancing the science of optics and photonics by publishing high-quality papers rapidly.

Photo: 40 Years Strong

Photo Credit: The Optical Society

January 2017

Woman's March

The Women's March was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers' rights.

Photo: Women's March on Washington

Photo Credit: wikipedia

February 2017

OSA Presents 2017 Advocate of Optics Recognition to National Science Foundation Director Dr. France A. Córdova

Córdova was chosen as OSA’s 2017 Advocate of Optics for her “public policy leadership and efforts in support of the advancement of the science of light,” particularly her efforts in observational and experimental astrophysics.

Photo: OSA 2017 President Eric Mazur and France Cordova

Photo Credit: OSA

February 2017

Walter Isaacson Headlines “Light the Future” at OSA 2017 Winter Leadership

Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC, USA, hosted the first Light the Future speaker series of the year.

Photo: Walter Isaacson

Photo Credit: OSA

February 2017

Margaret Murnane wins Ives Award

Margaret Murnane is awarded OSA's highest award "for pioneering and sustained contributions to ultrafast science ranging from femtosecond lasers to soft x-ray high-harmonic generation to attosecocnd studies of atoms, molecules and surfaces." Murnane is the first woman to receive this Medal in its nearly 90-year history.

Photo: Margaret Murnane

Photo Credit: NIST

February 2017

Death of Mildred Dresselhaus

Mildred Dresselhaus, first woman to win the US National Medal of Science in Engineering, recipient of US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and pioneer in the electronic properties of materials, passed away at the age of 86.

Photo: Mildred Dresselhaus

Photo Credit:

February 2017

NASA announces discovery of TRAPPIST-1, potentially habitable solar system

7 Earth-sized planets discovered orbiting nearby star, could harbor liquid water

Photo: This chart shows, on the top row, artist concepts of the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 with their orbital periods, distances from their star, radii and masses as compared to those of Earth.

Photo Credit: Credit: NASA

March 2017

Optics Express celebrates 20 years

Launched in 1997, Optics Express has provided readers with high-quality content edited by active researchers in optics and photonics for 20 years.

Photo: 20 years of OE

Photo Credit: The Optical Society

March 2017

First SpaceX re-flight

On March 30, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket. The California-based company used a booster, which had been previously launched 11 month prior, to carry a telecommunication satellite into orbit, before successfully landing it on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: SpaceX /Flickr CC

Photo Credit: A Falcon 9 launch vehicle takes flight during a resupply mission on June 3, 2017. This was the first time that a Dragon spacecraft has been reused.

April 2017

March for Science

The inaugural March for Science was a series of rallies and marches held in Washington, D.C., and more than 600 other cities across the world on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. According to organizers, the march is a non-partisan movement to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives.

Photo: March for Science

Photo Credit: March for Science

June 2017

Gravitational Waves Detected

LIGO detects gravitational waves for the third time. Results confirm new population of black holes.

Photo: Sky Map of LIGO's Black-Hole Mergers

Photo Credit: LIGO/Caltech/MIT/Leo Singer (Milky Way image: Axel Mellinger)

June 2017

Researchers Discover Short-Cut to Satellite-Based Quantum Encryption Network

From the ground, researchers measured laser signals that originated from a satellite and traveled through Earth’s gravitational potential and the turbulent atmosphere.


Photo Credit: Picture of the Earth: Google, picture of the satellite: ESA.

August 2017

Total Eclipse of the Sun

North America was treated to an eclipse of the sun on 21 August 2017. Anyone within the path of totality saw one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights - a total solar eclipse.

Photo: Totality as seen from Simpsonville, SC, USA

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

September 2017

European X-ray Free Electron Laser inaugurated

On Sep. 3, researchers and backers in Hamburg inaugurated the European X-ray free-electron laser, the most advanced x-ray device to date. The laser will allow for exceptionally high detail mapping of molecular surfaces, as well as the ability to stitch together high speed images to see the motion of molecules. (BBC)

Photo: Speakers at the inaugruation of the European XFEL cut the ribbon in front of the hutches for the SPB/SFX and FXE instruments, officially opening the facility.

Photo Credit: XFEL

September 2017

Death of Nicolaas Bloembergen

Nicolaas “Nico” Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate and OSA Honorary Member, passed away on 5 September 2017 at the age of 97. Bloembergen was known for his pioneering work in developing driving principles behind nonlinear optics for laser spectroscopy.

Photo: Nicolaas Bloembergen

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

September 2017

OSA's International Headquarters Dedicated

OSA formally dedicates its newly renovated headquarters building in Washington, D.C., in honor of Jarus W. Quinn, who served as the Society’s first executive director from 1972 to 1994.


Photo Credit:

September 2017

Gravitational Waves

The LIGO and Virgo collaborations announce the detection of a forth binary black hole merger.

Photo: LIGO/Caltech/Sonoma State (Aurore Simonnet)

Photo Credit: Known black holes as of Sept. 2017

October 2017

Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves".

Photo: Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, Barry Barish

Photo Credit:

October 2017

In a first for wearable optics, researchers develop stretchy fiber to capture body motion

Sensors attached to the body or integrated into clothing could allow athletes and physical therapists to monitor their progress, provide a more detailed level of motion capture for computer games or animation, help engineers build robots with a lighter touch or form the basis for new types of real-time health monitors.

Photo: A silicone strain sensor glued to a rubber glove bends easily with the wearer’s finger. The amount of light transmitted by the fiber changes with the bending.

Photo Credit: Image Credit: Changxi Yang, Tsinghua U

December 2017

Powerful New Tool for Looking for Life Beyond Earth

The new instrument is designed to detect compounds and minerals associated with biological activity more quickly and with greater sensitivity than previous instruments.

Photo: Thanks to a carefully designed optical setup, the new standoff ultra-compact micro Raman (SUCR) instrument can perform microscopic Raman analysis of samples 10 centimeters away from the instrument wit

Photo Credit: Image Credit: M. Nurul Abedin, NASA Langley Research Center.