Absorbing new subjects: holography as an analog of photography

Physics in Perspective 8:164-188 (2006)
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I discuss the early history of holography and explore how perceptions, applications, and forecasts of the subject were shaped by prior experience. I focus on the work of Dennis Gabor (1900–1979) in England,Yury N. Denisyuk (1927-2005) in the Soviet Union, and Emmett N. Leith (1927–2005) and Juris Upatnieks (b. 1936) in the United States. I show that the evolution of holography was simultaneously promoted and constrained by its identification as an analog of photography, an association that influenced its assessment by successive audiences of practitioners, entrepreneurs, and consumers. One consequence is that holography can be seen as an example of a modern technical subject that has been shaped by cultural influences more powerfully than generally appreciated. Conversely, the understanding of this new science and technology in terms of an older one helps to explain why the cultural effects of holography have been more muted than anticipated by forecasters between the 1960s and 1990s.

Author's Profile

Sean F. Johnston
University of Glasgow


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