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.


1930 — Transmission of an image of a light bulb through a short bundle of uncladded fibers reported.

Heinrich Lamm

1930 — Nobel prize in physics award for discovery of Raman

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman

Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him."

1930 — Invention of the Schmidt telescope

Bernhard Schmidt

Bernhard Schmit (Estonia) invents the Schmit telescope, which uses a spherical mirror instead of a parabolic reflector, and a correcting plate as the telescope aperture.

1931 — Devises method to mass-produce glass fibers for Fiberglass.


1932 — Invented "polaroid" polarizing film.

Edwin H. Land

1932 — Observed the diffraction of light by ultrasonic waves.

P Debye and FW Sears and also R Lucas and P Biquard independently

1933 — Invention of the first electron microscope

Ernst Ruska

Invented the first electron microscope which images the specimen using electrons, resolves specimens 4000 times better than optical microscopes and can magnify 5000 times more than optical microscopes.

1934 — Discovery of light emissions by charged particles

Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov

Discovery of light emissions by a charged particle moving in a material faster than the speed of light in that material. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1958.

1935 — Invention of the fluorescent lamp

George Inman and Richard Thayer (GE scientists)

Invented the fluorescent lamp.

1935 — Invention of the spectrophotometer

Arthur C. Hardy

The spectrophotometer which measures intensity of light as a function of the light source wavelength.

1936 — Kodachrome color film developed.

Eastman Kodak

1938 — Invention of the Phase Contrast Microscope

Frits Zernike

Invents the Phase Contrast Microscope which improves the ability to view living samples by separating the light scattered from the specimen and the illuminating background light, and phase shifting the background light to improve contrast.

1939 — Transmission interference filter described

Walter Geffcken