President Obama honors IBM scientists for laser technology that enables LASIK

Being honored for their work in designing, developing, and implementing excimer laser technology, including in LASIK eye surgery, IBM (NYSE:IBM; Armonk, NY) scientists James J. Wynne, Rangaswamy Srinivasan, and Samuel Blum are receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama. The award is the most prestigious of its kind in the US, and is given to leading innovators for technological achievement.

IBM’s work in laser technology, which began in 1981 by this team of scientists, has shaped the course of surgical care. Well suited for delicate surgeries such as LASIK, the excimer laser replaced mechanical instruments such as the scalpel, which was not very precise, could leave the cornea permanently weakened, and required a long recovery time.

The team of researchers originally demonstrated the technology’s capabilities to the medical community by using quick pulses of UV light to cut a clean pattern into a human hair without burning the strand. This ability to precisely cut into materials via vaporization, rather than burning, was appealing to doctors and patients, as it left surrounding areas undamaged.

President Obama will personally bestow the award to the three scientists at a special White House ceremony at a later date. IBM has earned the National Medal of Technology and Innovation on nine other occasions.

Wynne still works at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center, while Srinivasan and Blum have since retired.

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