an optical clock

Optics Timeline

Optics is the physical science that studies the origin and propagation of light, how it changes, what effects it produces, and other phenomena associated with it. This "Optics Timeline" highlights important events and developments in the science of optics from prehistory to the beginning of the 21st century. It also includes related developments in other fields and related milestones in the human worldview.


1920 — Made the first measurements of a star's diameter (Alpha Orionis).

A. A. Michelson

1920 — Bent glass rods used for microscope illumination.
1921 — Western Union sends the first electonically-transmitted photograph.
1923 — Nobel Prize in Physics awarded for work on the elementary charge of electricity and on the photoelectric effect."

Robert Andrews Millikan

1925 — "Leica" 35mm format camera introduced
1926 — Performed experiments to refine the measurement of the speed of light.

A A Michelson

1926 — Concept of using hollow tubes to transmit images patented

C Francis Jenkins (US) and John Logie Baird (England)

Both patented the concept of using hollow pipes to transmit images for television and facsimile systems.

1926 — Patent for mechanical television receiver

C. Francis Jenkins

Applies for US patent on a mechanical television receiver in which light passes along quartz rods in a rotating drum to form an image.

1926 — Principles of the fiber-optic imaging bundle outlined and in 1927 patent application filed.

Clarence W. Hansell

1927 — Developed a theory of electrons in metal by applying quantum theory to the structure of metals.

Arnold Sommerfeld

1927 — Modern flashbulb created


1927 — Presented a method of representing the electromagnetic radiation field in quantized form.

Paul Adrien & Maurice Dirac

1928 — First observation of Raman scattering

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman

Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Raman observes that when light passes through a transparent substance, some of the light is deflected and changes in wavelength. This will eventually be called Raman scattering, a result of the Raman effect.

1928 — Confirmed existence of stimulated emmision.

Rudolph W. Landenburg

1928 — First OSA award established: Frederic E. Ives Medal for distinguished work in optics.

Frederid E. Ives

1928 — New type of optical microscope proposed to bypass classical diffraction limit

Edward H. Synge

Proposes a new type of optical microscope that would bypass the classical diffraction limit.

1929 — Creation of a new kind of polarizing material

Ed Land

Creates a new kind of polarizing material in a plastic sheet.