Ali Javan

By Syed Aslam

javan-scaled-cropProf. Ali Javan was born in Teheran, Iran, in 1929. After graduating from University of Tehran he entered Columbia University in 1949  and received his PhD. degree in Physics in 1954.  Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University, he joined the research staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey in September, 1958. In 1961 he joined the MIT faculty, where he has continued to teach and conduct research up to the present.

In 1917 Albert Einstein first introduced the concept of stimulated emission of light as a general principle in light-matter interaction. In 1958, using this principle, Prof. Javan conceived the basic idea to extract a pure color, monochromatic, light from gaseous media by means of an electrical excitation accompanied with an enhancement process arising from inter atom collisions. For the first time in 1960, his gas laser produced a continuously operating laser light. Prior to his work on the laser, Professor Javan developed the theory of the three level maser and showed the importance of phase coherence in this microwave device. This work introduced the concept of masers without population inversion, and he further extended this idea to the use of the stimulated Raman effect to achieve gain, a concept that subsequently led to novel extensions in the optical regime.

Professor Javan’s continued contributions over the years have advanced diverse frontiers in the field of quantum electronics. At MIT, he established a major research laboratory and developed it into the largest  laser research laboratory in the world. Many of the early breakthroughs in the scientific uses of lasers took place this laboratory. These include the many developments in laser spectroscopy at sub-Doppler resolution, which defined the field of gas phase nonlinear spectroscopy; the first use of lasers to accurately test the special theory of relativity. He    introduced   absolute frequency measurement technology into the optical region, and  developed  laser atomic clocks for the first time.

Professor Javan has continued to be active in novel areas of research, including his recent work exploring the effects of coupling light by an optical antenna into a nano scale volume of matter. A number of active fields of research have emerged from his work. His contributions have also extended to applied research areas, such as development of high energy gas lasers and multi static laser radars, controlled by accurate optical clocks and lasers for medical diagnostic use. He has supervised the doctoral thesis research of a large number of physics graduate students. In addition, he has served as an active consultant to government and industry. For his work on gas lasers,  he has earned my  awards specially  1993 Albert Einstein World award.


1 reply
  1. Nic
    Nic says:

    I’ve attended the Laser Fest event at the MIT Museum back in 2010. Afterwards I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Ali Javan. In fact I asked him about his religious convictions and he told me that he was born to a secular Iranian family and that he has no religious beliefs himself whatsoever.