With 2015 being declared the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies, we offer the following reprint, from the March 1972 issue of Physics Today. Nearly 45 years ago, a roomful of visionaries gathered in Isfahan, Iran, to opine about the future of lasers. Among those in the room was John Hall, 2005 Nobel laureate in physics, and we are pleased to present his introduction to this look-back and look-ahead feature.

It is wonderful to once again read the words of these insightful world leaders in science, who saw and predicted the future developments in their field. Some of the ideas worked well; one of them was even the proverbial “exercise for the student” case, noted by Pierre Giacomo of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and by a vastly younger and even more naive version of myself.

Through the hard work of teams of specialists at...

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