The laser ranks in importance with the transistor and the computer in modern technology. It is widely used in education, research, communication, and medicine. Laser light is coherent, spectrally pure, and powerful. Yet, in spite of its popularity and importance, very few people know how the laser was invented or how it works. The books by Jeff Hecht and Mario Bertolotti describe the history, invention, struggle, science, and basic facts about masers and lasers. The books are accessible to anyone who has completed a first physics course in high school or college, or has done some reading of popular physics books.

Hecht is an accomplished author of books on optics and lasers. His book starts with a wonderful prologue that describes the moment of truth (on May 16, 1960) when Ted Maiman and his assistant Irnee D’ Haenens showed that a synthetic ruby crystal could generate a new, coherent form...

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