Theodore Harold Maiman was born or July 11, 1927 in Los Angeles, California. The next year he moved to Denver, Colorado with his parents. His father, Abraham Maiman, was an electrical engineer and an inventor. Maiman was curious to how things work and was always taking things apart, to the dismay of his parents. In high school he worked in a electronics repair shop to earn money.
He earned a BS in engineering physics from the University of Colorado in 1949 and then went on to Stanford University where he earned a MS in electrical engineering in 1951 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1955 completing a thesis, under Willis Lamb, involving detailed optical measurements of the fine structure splittings in excited helium atoms
He then joined Hughes Laboratories where he worked on the stimulated emission of microwave energy. A MASER (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) had been invented earlier by Charles Townes working at Bell Laboratories. Townes and Arthur Schawlow in their paper suggest that their success, creating the MASER, could be repeated making a device that emits a coherent beam of light in the visual spectrum. This is called a LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).
Maiman was the first to produce a working LASER, announcing his invention at a press conference on July 7, 1960. He published his results in the British journal Nature, after his paper was refused by Physical Review Letters because it was deemed to be to repetitive. Maiman left Hughes Laboratories in 1962 and went on to work for a series of different companies, some of his own founding, working on LASERs and their applications.
Maiman was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize and was a member of the National Academy of Science and National Academy of Engineering. He won the Oliver E Buckley Prize in 1966 and won the 1983/4 Wolf Prize for Physics. He was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in also in 1984.
He died on May 5, 2007.
Day, Lance; McNeil Ian; "Maiman, Theodore Harold" in Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology; Taylor & Francis; 1998
Martin Douglas; "Theodore Maiman Dies, 79; Demonstrated First Laser";New York Times; May 11, 2007
Wycoff, Edwin Britt; Laser Man: Theodore Maiman and His Brilliant Invention; Enslow Publishers Inc; 2007
Theodore Maiman Wikipedia Entry