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The development and application of spectroscopy has had an enormous influence on the world in which we live. Spectroscopy has brought us fundamental understanding of the microscopic worlds of atoms and the macroscopic world of stars. It has also contributed to identifying and quantifying the materials that we live in. For example, how much glucose we have in our blood is determined with absorption spectroscopy, polymers can be easily separated for recycling by exampling their vibrational spectrum.

The history of spectroscopy began in the 17th century with Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of the basic nature of light and color evolution of the field of spectroscopy. We invite you to read a perspective on the history of spectroscopy from its founding through the development of quantum mechanics and finally its golden age during the last half of the 20th century.

Since its inception in 1931, the George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory at MIT has been a pioneer in spectroscopic research. The mission of the Laboratory has continually evolved to take on new challenges while advancing scientific understanding. Originally a world-recognized center for classical atomic spectroscopy under the direction of George R. Harrison and later a leader in infrared and Raman spectroscopic techniques under the direction of Richard C. Lord, the Laboratory is continually pursuing new frontiers in spectroscopy. Under the direction of Michael S. Feld, the use of lasers and laser-based techniques and their application to medicine and biology became the forefront of research.