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The basic concept of holography was discovered more or less by chance in 1948, when a Hungarian scientist named Dennis Gabor stumbled upon the possibilities. At the time, he was working on a project to improve the quality of images produced by electron microscopes. However, no suitable light source was available to produce holograms that were larger than a few millimetres across. It was the invention of a the laser in 1960 that provided the final breakthrough to practical holography.

During the 1960s and 1970s holography began to find applications in the fields of display and scientific imagery. Two scientists working in a laboratory at the University of Michigan, Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks, are credited with developing the basis of the holographic techniques used today. During the same period, in the Soviet Union, an optical specialist named Yuri Denisyuk proposed another type of hologram which is also still in use today. Interest in holography as a creative medium first arose in the late 1960s, when a scientist named Stephen Benton developed a new process for creating holograms viewable using ordinary white light.

Embossed holograms, which are the type seen on modern credit cards, were first produced in the 1970s. These can be mass produced reasonably cheaply and have therefore found application in a number of everyday fields.

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