South Florida Hospital News
Monday December 17, 2018
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February 2008 - Volume 4 - Issue 8

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Dirk Basting, Ph.D., Inventor of the Excimer Laser, Pursues his Passion for Technology with the Spirit of a Creative Student

"I should have sent you a photograph with me in a chef hat," said Dirk Basting, Ph.D. This is an unexpected remark from a man whose invention, the excimer laser, has made so many technological advancements possible across numerous fields. Basting, who retired in 2003 from his company, Lambda Physik USA, Inc., has not lost his curiosity for learning. At the time of this interview he was in his final semester of earning his culinary diploma from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. To him, cooking is a just a natural extension of chemistry, his chosen field.

Basting began developing the excimer laser during his doctoral studies with his classmate, Bernd Steyer in the early 1970's. Before beginning his doctoral studies, he co-founded Lambda Physik GmbH with Steyer, and in 1977 they offered the first commercial excimer laser, the EMG500.

Excimer technology has evolved from a tool used primarily in the laboratory research of high-powered UV source application to semiconductor manufacturing, Lasik eye surgery, micromachining of plastics the marking of small electronic components and pharmaceuticals, among other applications.

Basting was the first of three sons of a medical doctor and homemaker from Seltzer Germany. His father had wanted him to pursue a medical degree, but he could never stomach the sight of blood. He pursued a degree in chemistry instead.

In 1971, Basting received his Master of Science Degree in Chemistry from the Marburg University and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the Max-Planck Institute in Göttingen in 1975.

From the humble location of his den, Lambda Physik grew into a multi-million company that developed nearly 100 patents. In 1981, he founded Lambda Physik USA, Inc., in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Until 2004. In 1992, Dr. Basting established two international subsidiaries, Lambda Physik Japan KK and MicroLas GmbH, a joint venture with Jenoptik. In 2001, he founded XTREME technologies, a joint venture with Jenoptik.

While he acknowledges his financial success, it is not what motivates him. Creative collaboration with people and incorporating different ideas into practical solutions has been the driving force of his success.

When asked what advice he would offer an aspiring inventor, he said, "concentrate on a particular field that you have knowledge in so you have an advantage over others who may be developing the same idea. Also, money should not be the motivation as this leads to a lack of enthusiasm and boredom." Basting may also hope that future entrepreneurs have the benefit of a little naivety like he did as it frees you to take risks.

Basting sees entrepreneurial skill as an asset in the world of invention and a quality he appreciates in his American colleagues. " If you compare the American, German and Japanese cultures on the amount of annual start-ups you will notice that Americans take far more risks than Germans and even more so than the Japanese. The ability to take risks is an important advantage."

Yet, Basting is quick to acknowledge that it takes more than business acumen to deliver a successful product. "It takes a combination of creativity and a stable work environment to transform an invention into a marketable product."

Basting lives in Ft. Lauderdale where he enjoys cooking, ham radio operation, flying his Cessna and ballroom dancing with his wife, Rosemarie. He travels to Germany frequently to attend a number of honorary functions such as the board of Sartorius AG, Member of the Research Council of the German Industry Association (BDI), as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantenoptik, Munich and as a Member of the Jury for the Innovation Award of the German President. He has received numerous awards such as the Innovation Prize of the German Industry in 1994, the Innovation Award of the German President in 1998 and in 2004 the Order of Merit of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz).

Dr. Basting can be reached at basting@bellsouth.net.
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