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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Laser:
NIST’s Role in Laser Measurements and Applications

What is a laser?

Selected NIST Highlights:

Pre-1960
1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000s

Pre-1960

laserfest2
NIST scientist
Charlotte Moore Sitterly
Credit: NIST

1949-1958—NIST compilations of authenticated and verified spectroscopy data, published in three volumes titled Atomic Energy Levels, were highly influential in the development of gas lasers. Laser pioneers Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes credited the data, compiled by NIST scientist Charlotte Moore, with helping them to select suitable materials to build lasers of various types. “The [NIST] tables have been, and are continuing to be, essential tools in the search for new laser materials and new wavelengths,” Schawlow wrote in 1971. In all, the NIST volumes have been cited by others about 13,000 times, more than enough to be considered “citation classics.”