||This book is a text which applies to students and professors of physics. Because it offers a broad view on laser physics and presents most recent results on the dynamics of laser light, such as self-pulsing and chaos, it will be of interest also to scientists and engineers engaged in laser research or development. This text starts at a rather elementary level and will smoothly lead the reader into the more difficult problems of laser physics, including the basic features of the coherence and noise properties of laser light.
In the introductory chapters, typical experimental set-ups and laser materials will be discussed, but the main part of this book will be devoted to a theoretical treatment of a great variety of laser processes. The laser, or the optical maser, as it was originally called, is one of the most important inventions of this century and has found a great number of important applications in physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, telecommunications, and other fields. It bears great promises for further applications, e.g. in computers. But also from the point of view of basic research, a study of the physical processes which produce the unique properties of laser light are equally fascinating. The laser is a beautiful example of a system far from thermal equilibrium which can achieve a macroscopically ordered state through "self-organization". It was the first example for a nonequili-brium phase transition, and its study eventually gave birth to synergetics, a new interdisciplinary field of research.
I got involved in laser physics at a rather early stage and under most fortunate circumstances. In 1960 I was working as visiting scientist at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill. There I soon learned that these laboratories were searching for a revolutionary new light source. Two years earlier, in 1958, this source had been proposed by Schawlow and Townes, who derived in particular the laser condition and thus demonstrated the feasibility of this new device. At Bell Telephone Laboratories I soon got involved in a theoretical study of the laser processes and continued it at Stuttgart University. I developed a laser theory whose basic features I published in 1962 and which I then applied to various concrete problems,