Biophotonics has plenty of room
Our world has lost a number of groundbreakers in recent days, and while it will be a different place without them, it already is a better place because of them. Neil Armstrong took the first walk on the moon, and Sally Ride was the
first American woman to make the trip into space. In photonics,
Elias Snitzer is considered the father of the glass laser, and Isaac
Kaplan found a purpose for the CO2 laser.
Kaplan, who died in August at the age of 93, was a pioneer in
the creation of the first carbon dioxide laser for general surgery
and founder of the International Society for Laser Surgery and
While Armstrong said that circumstance gave him the role of
first man on the moon, Kaplan had a plan. In her news report on
his death for Photonics.com, senior editor Melinda Rose writes,
“When it was developed in the 1960s, Kaplan said, the CO2 laser
was without application. His goal was to research the application
of the new ‘miracle technology’ while developing an apparatus
that could put the application to work in general surgery.”
Armstrong, Ride, Snitzer and Kaplan are rarely spoken of in
the same breath, for sure, but each broke new ground in his or her
area of expertise. And, while the job of “pioneer” is often a one-person enterprise, each breakthrough creates new opportunities
for exploration and innovation.
The brilliant sparks of inspiration that mark the early careers of
so many trailblazers are game-changing, to be sure, but it’s the
work that continues outside of the spotlight, often for decades,
that leads to true greatness.
Neil Armstrong also said, “I guess we all like to be recognized
not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily
work.” After his walk on the moon, Armstrong worked for NASA
and taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
After NASA, Sally Ride taught at the University of California,
San Diego, and encouraged girls and young women to study math
and science. Snitzer and Kaplan had long careers that included
research, innovation and education. All proved that there are
many ways to affect our world and our future.
Also in this issue, James Hermanowski of Nathaniel Group
Inc. explains that xenon light sources represent the benchmark for
medical illumination but cannot couple light through the small
channels used for microendoscopes. His article, “Light Source
Helps Endoscopes Get Smaller and Smaller,” starts on page 31.
In “Multimodal Label-Free Imaging Drives Biomedical Research,” James Lopez and Yiwei Jia, of Olympus America Inc.,
describe how label-free noninvasive, nondestructive optical
microscopy using multiple simultaneous techniques allows
researchers to observe diverse life processes in real time. Find
the article on page 20.
Today, biophotonics innovators receive their inspiration from
many disciplines and from all kinds of places, including yesterday’s view of tomorrow, Star Trek. We have so not heard the last
of the tricorder, and that could be a very good thing for all of us.
In an article in this issue, contributing editor Gary Boas says,
“The Star Trek television series and movies have proved remarkably prescient in anticipating the future.” In “The Age of the Tricorder,” beginning on page 24, Boas describes a new generation
of sensing and imaging diagnostic devices, many with origins in
smartphones with cameras and data-transmission capabilities, and
tells us to expect to see more such devices in the future.
And, finally, optical fibers with higher light transmission and
longer life spans offer interesting new solutions for meeting the
growing demand for higher quality lighting in medicine, according to Karen Holst of Schott AG in her article, “New Glass Fibers
Widen Range of Medical Lighting Applications,” beginning on
Enjoy the issue.
Karen A. Newman