Theodore Harold Maiman’s knowledge of electronics and electricity, which he acquired in his father’s laboratory at the age of 12, was more than sufficient to repair everything. At 17, he passed the examination for a first class commercial radio–telephone licence as the youngest person in USA to hold it. He completed PhD in Physics from Stanford University.
In January 1956, Maiman started work at Hughes Atomic Physics Department (Culver City , California), where he headed the ruby maser (microwave amplification) project for the US Army Signal Corps. He dramatically improved the performance and design of the maser (reducing its weight from the original 5,000 lbs to 25 lbs) and delivered it on time. He further refined the maser design, so that the final version worked with liquid nitrogen cooling (previous versions required lower temperatures and worked with liquid helium), and weighed only 4 pounds. He completed the maser project in the summer of 1959 and in August he was finally able to divert his attention to the laser concept, despite of lack of support from Hughes. The “race” to build the laser was in full speed.
Thanks to his independent attitude, he won the “race”. In May 1960, he demonstrated the laser in action, from a ruby crystal in his laboratory at Hughes in Malibu, where the company had recently moved. It is important to note that Hughes’ total expenditures in the period of laser development amounted to about $50,000, while other research groups spent millions of dollars in their unsuccessful struggles to obtain the coherent light. He sent a short version of his paper to the British journal “Nature”. Consequently, the first scientific report about the first laser appeared on August 6, 1960.
In 1962, Maiman founded Korad Corporation to develop and manufacture a line of high-powered laser equipment. Korad became the market leader in its field. He also co-founded Laser Video, Inc., where he developed unique large-screen, laser driven color video displays. He is the author of the basic patent on the ruby laser (the world’s first laser), and has authored patents on masers, lasers, laser displays, optical scanning, and modulation.