The laser, first operated in 1960, produced light with coherence properties that demanded explanation. While some attempted a treatment within the framework of classical coherence theory, others insisted that only quantum electrodynamics could give adequate insight and generality. The result was a sharp and rather bitter controversy, conducted over the physics and mathematics that were being deployed, but also over the criteria for doing good science. Three physicists were at the center of this dispute, Emil Wolf, Max Born’s collaborator on a canonical text on optics as a branch of classical electromagnetism, Roy J. Glauber, a student of Julian Schwinger and a high-energy particle theorist, and Leonard Mandel, both experimentalist and theorist and versed in the physics of photodetection. The story told here is thus one of three distinct research trajectories and of the explosion that occurred when, pushed into the well-financed field of laser studies, these trajectories collided.
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DOI 10.1007/s00407-015-0166-8
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