Physicist Theodore Maiman invented the first functioning laser in 1960, although there were several theoretical contributions beforehand from others. Bell Labs scientists Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow published a blueprint for the optical laser in 1958, and Gordon Gould wrote a thesis on the laser in 1957.
Laser stands for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." When molecules and atoms move between states of energy, a release of photon energy occurs, which either decreases or increases the particle's level of excitation. Under certain conditions, several atoms can be stimulated together to release electrons simultaneously. The resulting emission of photons is coherent light, or a laser.