16 May 1960: the first working optical laser

Laser at the Hughes Aircraft research laboratories, Malibu, California © Getty images
A laser at the Hughes Aircraft Company

In 1917, Albert Einstein proposed that it was possible to manipulate light with mirrors in such a way as to produce an incredibly pure and focused burst of light.

As a result, the idea of 'death-rays' that could slice through objects with pinpoint accuracy became a staple of science fiction. But the civilian use of such technology was not immediately apparent, so there was little interest [...]

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