ABSTRACT

Dennis Gabor devised a novel concept for optical imaging in 1947 that went by a variety of names over the following decade: holoscopy, wavefront reconstruction, interference microscopy, diffraction microscopy, and Gaboroscopy. A well-connected and creative research engineer, Gabor worked actively to develop, publicize and exploit his concept, but the scheme failed to capture the interest of many researchers. Gabor's theory was repeatedly deemed unintuitive and baffling and his technique of dubious practicality and limited applicability. By the late 1950s, Gabor's subject had been assessed by its handful of practitioners to be a white elephant. Nevertheless, other researchers in America and Russia later rehabilitated the project. What had been judged a failure was recast as a success during the 1960s as the foundation of the new and distinct subject of holography. This re-evaluation gained the Nobel Prize for Physics for Gabor in 1971. This paper focuses on the difficulties experienced in constructing a meaningful subject, a practical application, and a viable technical community from Gabor's ideas during the decade 1947-1957.

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