Today is International Day of Light, proclaimed in 2015 by UNESCO to be 16 May, the anniversary of the creation of the world’s first laser by T.H. Maiman in 1960.
Light plays a central role in our lives. Like water or food, light is a basic necessity. Without light, there would be no life as we know it; in fact, through photosynthesis, light is at the origin of life itself. The whole world benefits from advances in light science and its applications. Light-based technology has a wide-ranging impact in many areas, from medicine to food, communications and energy, and therefore it has an indubitable capacity to improve and revolutionise the quality of our lives.
These technologies have been developed through centuries of research into the properties of light, from Ibn Al-Haytham’s seminal work, the Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), published in 1015, through Einstein’s studies in the early 20th century, which changed the way we think about time and light.
This day was proclaimed with the aim of promoting the central role of light and light-based technologies in science, culture, art, education and sustainable development and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications and energy. The celebration will allow many different sectors of society around the world to take part in activities that demonstrate how science, technology, art and culture can help achieve UNESCO’s goals, building the foundations for peaceful societies.