International Day of Light
Light plays a central role in our lives. On the most fundamental level, through photosynthesis, light is at the origin of life itself. The study of light has led to promising alternative energy sources, lifesaving medical advances in diagnostics technology and treatments, light-speed internet and many other discoveries that have revolutionized society and shaped our understanding of the universe. These technologies were developed through centuries of fundamental research on the properties of light – starting with Ibn Al-Haytham’s seminal work, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), published in 1015 and including Einstein’s work at the beginning of the 20th century, which changed the way we think about time and light.
The International Day of Light celebrates the role light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy. The celebration will allow many different sectors of society worldwide to participate in activities that demonstrates how science, technology, art and culture can help achieve the goals of UNESCO – building the foundation for peaceful societies.
The International Day of Light is celebrated on 16 May each year, the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer, Theodore Maiman. This day is a call to strengthen scientific cooperation and harness its potential to foster peace and sustainable development.
MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL
"From the birth of the universe to the creation of all kinds of new technologies, from X-rays to radio waves, in fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture, energy, optics, and countless others, light has shaped – and continues to shape – our world. By understanding light, we are able to achieve the greatest of scientific and technological progress.
All its natural benefits and its scientific and technological applications make light an essential part of the daily life of our societies; these benefits and applications make light an important issue for the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda."
— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Light 2019