Jeff.Hecht's page

Pathfinder photo of mars

Welcome to Mars -- Pathfinder photo of the Martian surface

A Few Words of Introduction

As a science and technology writer, I cover many areas, with a particular concentration on fiber optics and lasers. I also consult on fiber optics, lasers and optical technology. In my copious spare time, I write science fiction. My major activities are:

Update in Process

I'm finally doing spring cleaning and updating. Things may get confused in the interim.

Beam: The Race to Make the Laser

Oxford University Press recently published my latest book, Beam: The Race to Make the Laser, which tells how the idea of the laser was translated into reality. The starting gun was a fateful conversation between Charles Townes and Gordon Gould shortly after the Soviet Sputnik launch in October 1957. Their conversation defined the basic goal, which Gould called "light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation" -- or LASER, a term borrowed from the microwave version, or MASER, which Townes had invented earlier. Townes and Gould each figured out how a laser should work, launching ambitious programs at Bell Labs, TRG Inc., and Columbia University. But the winner of the race was Theodore Maiman, who in 1960 built the first laser around a little cylinder of ruby. His design was so simple and elegant that TRG built their own version within weeks after seeing a press-release photograph.

Understanding Fiber Optics

The fifth edition of my tutorial introduction to fiber-optic technology Understanding Fiber Optics is now available from Prentice Hall. It's widely used for technician training and self-study, and is the place I suggest starting if you want to learn about fiber optics. (Sure, I'm biased, but I've worked hard to make it accessible to anyone who wants to understand fiber optics. That means intuitive verbal explanations, diagrams that show how things work, and simple worked-out examples.) Laser Focus World published excerpts from the earlier edition during 1999 and 2000, and is publishing a continuing series of similar articles on the frontiers of photonic technology. The latest are available on the Laser Focus World site.

Read Table of Contents.

History of Fiber Optics

My book on the history of fiber optics titled City of Light was published in Spring 1999 by Oxford University Press. It tells how the technology developed from early demonstrations of light guiding in flowing jets of water , through instruments that allow physicians to look inside the stomach without surgery, to the communication fibers that provide the backbone of today's global telecommunication network. There are tales of bright ideas, hard work, disappointment, and triumph. The cast ranges from the college undergraduate who made a key breakthrough to eminent professors of physics and independent-minded entrepreneurs. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you'll share that feeling when you read it. Oxford Published a trade paperback edition that corrects a few errors and adds a new chapter on the boom, the bubble and the bust.


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Assorted Other Information

The contents of this site are parallel to those at, except for the links to booksellers. No e-mail adderess is 100% reliable, but the best way to contact me is to e-mail me at [insert my first name][dot][insert my last name] My postal address is: 525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 in the Boston area; 'snail mail' is not as fast, but the Postal Service has fewer inexplicable black holes than the Internet.

How did I jump between and

You weren't supposed to unless you tried, but in the course of updating these pages some links got confused. Sorry about that.

What's your privacy policy?

I collect no information on visitors other than counting your presence, and I don't know who you are unless you send me e-mail. My site sets no cookies, and contains no legalese.However, I cannot be responsible for the actions of other sites to which I link.

Aren't there more graphics somewhere?

I may get around to adding some pictures, but I intentionally keep the graphics and coding simple so this site should work with any browser and download at reasonable speed even if you're on dial-up. I try to comply with Internet accessibility guidelines, but I probably missed something. Feedback is welcome at [insert my first name][dot][insert my last name]

Advertising Links

I make my living writing, not by cluttering my pages with ads. The links are here to make it easier to find my books. Much as I might like them to be in the best-seller racks at your neighborhood bookstore, they aren't, and I don't like to hear horror stories about the books you couldn't find.

The friendly folks at lured me here by setting up an earlier version of this site; if you want to sign up or find out more about the place, click on the link below.

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