Timeline: 1980–1999

The following timeline provides a capsule narrative of RLE’s notable events and achievements, and some of the individuals who have played key roles in the Laboratory’s development and growth.

1983 — RLE’s Advanced Television Research Program is established, with William Schreiber as director.

1985 — Irwin M. Jacobs, a graduate research assistant in RLE’s Statistical Communication Theory Group in the 1950s and a member of the RLE faculty in the 1960s, founds Qualcomm, Inc., which becomes a global industry leader in advanced communication systems and products.

1987 — RLE’s Radio Astronomy group, led by RLE’s Bernard Burke, demonstrates the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) and produces the world’s first astronomical space-ground VLBI observations.

1991 — RLE’s James G. Fujimoto invents optical coherence tomography (OCT) by exploiting low coherence interferometry. OCT becomes a revolutionary new technique to image biological structures non-invasively.

1995 — Bose-Einstein condensation is achieved by RLE’s Wolfgang Ketterle. His work improves on the first achievement of BEC by RLE alumnus Eric Cornell at the University of Colorado earlier in the year.

1995 — RLE’s Hermann A. Haus is awarded the National Medal of Science for his brilliant teaching and pioneering research, which spans fundamental investigations of quantum uncertainty as manifested in optical communications to the practical generation of ultra-short optical pulses.

1996 — The W. M Keck Foundation Center for Neural Prostheses is awarded to RLE. RLE’s Donald K. Eddington leads this major multi-institutional, inter-disciplinary effort to advance the development of neural prostheses to improve function for the deaf, the blind, the mute and the balance-impaired.

1996 — The Federal Communications Commission adopts the Grand Alliance HDTV System, developed jointly by RLE’s Jae S. Lim, as the digital television standard for the United States. HDTV broadcasts begin in the United States in 1998.

1997 — RLE’s James G. Fujimoto, working with colleagues at the Massachusetts General Hospital, demonstrates the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for imaging nontransparent tissue in living organisms.

1997 — RLE’s Wolfgang Ketterle creates the first atom laser, a device that is analogous to an optical laser but emits atoms instead of light.

1997 — William D. Phillips, who was a graduate research assistant in RLE’s Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics group in the 1970s, is a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

1998 — Robert B. Laughlin, who was a graduate research assistant with RLE’s John D. Joannopoulos in the late 1970s, is a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.

1999 — RLE’s original home—MIT’s Building 20, the Magical Incubator—is demolished to make way for the new Ray and Maria Stata Center.