During the 1940s, while most American scientists were striving to perfect themilitary technology that would fuel the cold war, Dennis Gabor was developing a new science, one that would improve existing imaging processes by creating true three-dimensional pictures. Though essentially overlooked by the scientific community of the time, Gabor's studies would later pave the way for theinvention of the hologram.
During his childhood in Budapest, Gabor showed an advanced aptitude for science; in their home laboratory, he and his brother would often duplicate the experiments they read about in scientific journals. He entered Budapest Technical University at age eighteen, but had only completed three years of study when he was drafted into the military. Gabor, who had already served two yearsin World War I, chose not to fight for Hungary's newly restored monarchy; instead, he moved to Berlin to complete his education. It was here, at Berlin Technical University, that he studied under such influential scientists as MaxPlanck (1858-1947), Max von Laue (1879-1960), and Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Gabor remained in Germany until the rise of Hitler, after which he fled toEngland, where he conducted the bulk of his research.
In England, Gabor worked primarily upon the electron microscope. An inherentflaw in the device frustrated him: at high magnification levels, only a verysmall portion of the subject could be resolved, while the rest of the information would be unreadable. As a solution, Gabor theorized that it would be possible to take a "bad picture" with the electron microscope, but one which contained the complete information, and then correct it later. He called this bad picture a hologram, meaning "complete picture."
His initial demonstrations of this process, however, were unimpressive: in order to create a true hologram, he needed a coherent light source, something that did not exist in 1947. Thus, the hologram sat idle until 1960, when Theodore Harold Maiman built the first working laser. The coherent, monochromaticlight produced by the laser was ideal for Gabor's needs, and his theories were soon used to their fullest potential.
During the 1960s, the field of holography exploded and today has become a multimillion dollar industry. Holography has found applications in medicine, cartography, and computer information storage. Holograms can be found in advertising, on magazine covers, and on credit cards to prevent counterfeiting. Gabor was awarded numerous scientific accolades for his discovery, including theRumford Medal, in 1968, and the Nobel Prize, in 1971.