This week we get to revisit our beloved LASIK, with which we climaxed 2012. Just as we were really ramping up into the festivities of the Christmas season, on another celebrated calendar day, December 21st (winter solstice), 2012 – the day that life as we knew it was supposed to end – U.S. President Obama awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for the breakthrough that made LASIK surgery possible to the scientists responsible for the discovery, innovation, and development of the new surgical procedure, at IBM’s laser research lab: Rangaswamy Srinivasan, James J. Wynne, and Samuel Blum.
Now, not to change channels (ho ho!), but we are this week about ten months early for Thanksgiving, but, we must invoke that favorite post-Halloween and pre-Christmas beloved day, here, in the middle of January because… and, by the way, that’s no turkey eye in the image above.
Truly, the turkey may deserve just as much credit for the invention of LASIK as the three members of the other species. Indeed, we are talking about a major event in medical history.
For it was on Thanksgiving Day in 1981, when Srinivasan, an IBM research physicist, caught a wave a genius and decided to experiment with the excimer laser and turkey – no not to cook it! Srinivasan and his research team had been exploring new ways to use the excimer laser, which had recently been acquired by their research group at IBM. They had already discovered that the excimer laser could make precise, minute changes to material such as polymers. (A polymer is a natural or synthetic compound of usually large, simple molecules, millions of them linked together; starch is an example.)
Srinivasan’s team wondered that if the excimer laser would so cleanly etch polymeric material, what would happen if they tried it on human or animal tissue? This is when the light bulb went on in Srinivasan’s head while he was enjoying his turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, etc., on Thanksgiving Day. The very next day, Srinivasan took some turkey leftovers into the lab, and applied the excimer laser to it, sacrificing part of his lunch to the advancement of science. The results were extremely clean cuts to whatever bone, cartilage, or meat, with no evidence of damage to the surrounding tissue. “Eureka!” Srinivasan exclaimed, they had just discovered a new form of surgery.
Well, so we don’t bite off more than we can chew all in one blog, please tune in next week, for the rest of the story…