Gordon Gould, a pioneer in laser technology who coined the word 'laser' and won a decades-long struggle to secure patent rights for the most commonly used type, has died. He was 85.
He died Friday in Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan of an infection, his wife, Marilyn Appel, said on Monday.
Gould, a resident of Sag Harbor, on Long Island, once said that his first ideas for the laser came suddenly to him in 1957.
He sketched his thoughts in a notebook, writing, "Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation," according to Laser, a book about Gould by Nick Taylor.
Gould invented two of the most important kinds of lasers, the gas discharge laser and the optically pumped laser, which have applications as varied as supermarket checkout counters and eye operations.
He began work on the laser in 1957 based on his graduate studies at Columbia University and first applied for the patent in 1959.
The US Patent Office denied his application, sparking a legal battle that would span three decades, with scientific prestige and tens of millions of dollars at stake.
Gould won his first minor patent in 1977. But he didn't claim his first significant patent victory until 1987, when a federal judge ordered the government to issue a patent to him for the optically pumped laser. The judge said the Patent Office 'made several material errors' in rejecting the 1959 application.