PAAIA is sad to announce the passing of Dr. Ali Javan. A respected and accomplished Iranian American physicist, Javan was a professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Co-inventor of the gas laser in 1960, he secured his spot among the great scientific minds of the 20th century, and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1964 for his contributions to the fields of laser spectroscopy and quantum physics.
Javan was born in Tabriz in 1926 to an Azeri family. He attended the University of Tehran beginning in 1947 before emigrating to the United States in 1948. He then began taking graduate-level courses at Columbia University, where he completed his PhD in 1954 under advisor Dr. Charles Townes, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Prior to earning his PhD, Javan had received neither a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
Following the completion of his PhD, Javan continued with post-doctoral studies and publishing research over the next several years. He joined Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1958, where he conceived his gas laser, and then submitted his research for publication in 1960. The first test demonstration of his laser was in 1961 at an MIT laboratory; Javan was the Francis Wright Davis Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1964 until his death on September 12, 2016 at the age of 89. He is survived by his wife Marjorie and his two daughters, and his legacy is celebrated by the Iranian American community.
Javan was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science, the first member of the Eurasian Academy, the director of the Symposium on Laser Physics, a member of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and the winner of the Albert Einstein World Award of Science from the World Cultural Council.