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UNESCO's International Day of Light debuts in Paris

02 Jul 2018

DL 2018 was opened by Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s Director-General. (images: © Nora Houguenade / UNESCO)


IDL speaker Kip Thorne, 2017 Nobel Prizewinner in Physics, from California Institute of Technology.


Head man: John Dudley, IDL 2018 Steering Committee Chairman and friends.







Following success of year-long festival in 2015, IDL aims to promote and share the benefits of light projects worldwide. UNESCO recently welcomed delegates including Nobel Laureates, scientists, politicians and senior photonics sector representatives to the first occasion of the International Day of Light (IDL).

Their aim was to celebrate the role light plays in our daily lives. The event followed the highly successful International Year of Light in 2015, after which organiser UNESCO decided to establish this annual event to maintain the momentum of light-related projects designed to benefit communities worldwide.

During the Day of Light, centred on UNESCO's headquarters in Paris - but also involving multiple organisations running light-themed events across the globe, the participants examined how light-based technologies can contribute to meet pressing challenges in diverse areas, such as medicine, education, agriculture and energy.

IDL 2018 was opened by UNESCO's Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who was joined in the photonics celebrity-rich program by renowned scientists, including: Kip Thorne, 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, California Institute of Technology (USA); Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, Collège de France; and Khaled Toukan, Director of the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) based in Allan, Jordan.

The debates that flourished in 2015, in the framework of the International Year of Light, highlighted the importance of light sciences and light-based technologies in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Several thousand events were held in 147 countries during the Year placed under the auspices of UNESCO.

The proclamation of 16 May as the International Day of Light was supported by UNESCO's Executive Board following a proposal by Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, and approved by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2017.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is an IDL Steering Committee member and has been a leader in launching and supporting both the IYL and the IDL. The recurring IDL date of May 16 marks the anniversary of the first successful operation of a laser by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman in 1960.

"The International Day of Light provides us all with the opportunity to promote the importance of optics and photonics to society on May 16 every year," noted IDL 2018 Steering Committee Chairman John Dudley.


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