interest in the laser was not exhibited strictly through grants; in 1965 Laser Focus reported that the Army Missile Command at the Redstone Arsenal was developing a high-energy laser medical unit. The project reportedly began when Dr. John P. Minton of the National Cancer Institute was searching for a high-powered laser and learned that the military could provide one. Dr. James R. Dearman of Redstone called this program "the result of a unique marriage between the military and medicine" (Laser Focus, 1965). The U.S. government's and military's interest in the laser was beneficial to medicine resulting in a large volume of important research from government-supported projects.

Medical laser research developed an audience from the large number of medical and laser conferences in the 1960s. It was through these events that the medical profession informed laser developers of their needs. At the Boston Laser Conference in August 1964, Goldman and Zaret reported on the dangers of the laser to scientists, while Captain Martin S. Litwin of the Army Medical Research and Development Command stated that biological researchers needed continuous lasers, especially at wavelengths shorter than 5900 angstroms. The 1965 Northeast Electronics Research and Engineering Meeting included 10 papers on medical uses, including one by Goldman. The watershed event for medical research may have been the First Annual Biomedical Conference on Laser Research, organized by Dr. Paul E. McGuff of Tufts New England Medical Center, and featuring 36 talks. In 1965, Goldman began to bring his work to doctors more directly; he inquired in Laser Focus whether medical professionals were interested in a course on the use of lasers.

Other projects involving the laser were few in the early 1960s. Dentists began examining the laser's effect on teeth in 1964, with studies focusing on human enamel, dentin, and dental restorative materials. While this research was needed to understand the laser's effects on human tissue, it produced no immediate advances for dentistry. Marginally more successful were studies of the laser's potential in surgery (Wolbarsht, 1971).

Dr. McGuff published reports on the use of the laser in surgery in 1963. By 1964, with David Prushnell of Raytheon, he vaporized a human carcinoma that had been transplanted to a hamster. Early cancer studies were the mechanism by which the vaporization and cutting abilities of the laser became fully known. A flurry of research on laser treatments for cancer occurred in the mid-1960s, but cancer treatment studies became less common after scientists discovered that the ablation was scattering malignant cells to other sites (Bromberg, 1991).

Laser surgery equipment began to appear in the medical marketplace in 1965 with the development of microsurgical equipment by M.C. Bessis and others at the National Transfusion Center in Paris. In 1967, Laser Incorporated, a spin-off from and subsidiary of American Optical Corporation, introduced a portable surgical device designed for operating room use. Prototypes were tested on dogs at the Montefiore Hospital Medical Center in New York.

By the mid-1960s there were many types of lasers available for researchers;



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement