Photonics community loses HeNe pioneer Ali Javan

Recognized for his contributions to the field of lasers and quantum electronics, Ali Javan passed away on September 12.

Ali Javan (far right, in 1993), one of the founders of the helium-neon or HeNe laser, passed away on Monday, September 12, 2016. (Image credit: http://alijavan.mit.edu/WPP61Bio.htm)
Ali Javan (far right, in 1993), one of the founders of the helium-neon or HeNe laser, passed away on Monday, September 12, 2016. (Image credit: http://alijavan.mit.edu/WPP61Bio.htm)

IMAGE: Ali Javan (far right, in 1993), one of the founders of the helium-neon or HeNe laser, passed away on Monday, September 12, 2016. (Image credit: http://alijavan.mit.edu/WPP61Bio.htm)

Ali Javan, the first named Francis Wright Davis Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, MA), passed away on Monday, September 12, 2016. Recognized for his leadership and original contributions to the field of lasers and quantum electronics, he won international acclaim for his invention of the world’s first laser to operate continuously, at an unprecedented color purity and accuracy.

He conceived the working principle of this very first original laser and predicted its potentials early in the summer of the year 1958. And while a member subsequently of the research staff at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, he initiated extended research with the support of the Bell laboratories and successfully operated this original laser, in December 1960--the well-known and widely used, helium neon (HeNe) gas discharge laser.

Javan originally joined the MIT faculty in 1961. He initiated and organized and directed at MIT, the very first large-scale research center in lasers and quantum electronics in the US. Many of the early breakthroughs in lasers took place at his MIT research laboratories and in the following decades. As a highlight, the entire field of precision laser spectroscopy at an unprecedented resolving power and accuracy at sub-Doppler limit has its origin in a series of original experiments performed at his MIT laboratories. Also, the very first accurate frequency-stabilized laser, stabilized at the line center of a sub-Doppler spectral line, and stabilized reproducibly to within as low as several kilohertz at these ultrahigh frequencies, was originally demonstrated at his laboratories.

Javan was surrounded by family and listening to Mozart and Mahler before he passed.

SOURCE: Family and colleagues of Ali Javan and http://web.mit.edu/physics/people/faculty/javan_ali.html and http://alijavan.mit.edu/WPP61Bio.htm

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