International Year of Light

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International Year of Light logo

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, 2015 (IYL 2015) commemorates the achievements of light science and its applications, and its contributions to humankind. The resolution A/RES/68/221 proclaiming the IYL 2015 was adopted without vote on 20 December 2013 during a plenary meeting of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, with the General Assembly acting on the recommendation of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) during consideration of an Agenda item on Science and Technology for Development.[1]

In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the topic of light science and its applications, the United Nations has recognized the importance of raising global awareness of how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. Indeed, the resolution was adopted as part of a more general Agenda item on Science and technology for development. This International Year will bring together many different stakeholders including UNESCO, scientific societies and unions, educational and research institutions, technology platforms, non-profit organizations and private sector partners to promote and celebrate the significance of light and its applications during 2015.


Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century. It has revolutionized medicine, opened up international communication via the Internet, and continues to be central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society. For centuries light has transcended all boundaries, including geographic, gender, age and culture, and is a tremendous subject to motivate education. It is critical that the brightest young minds continue to be attracted to optics and photonics in order to ensure the next generation of engineers and innovators in this field.

IYL 2015 will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating a number of important significant anniversaries that take place in 2015 - from the first studies of optics 1000 years ago during the Islamic Golden Age to discoveries in internet optical fiber technology in 1965.

Birth and development of the IYL 2015 project[edit]

The IYL 2015 partnership was formed in 2010 and consists of a wide range of stakeholders including learned societies, educational institutions, networks, technology platforms and other non-profit organizations. The partners include professionals and volunteers in areas ranging from technology and engineering to art and culture, and come from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Eurasia, Asia and Australasia. Young people are represented prominently through the many international student chapters of international learned societies. Support during the construction phase of the project came from many partners, including the African Physical Society, the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Commission for Optics, the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the New Zealand Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of New Zealand, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and many other groups and individuals.

The resolution proposing an IYL 2015 was placed before the 190th Session of the UNESCO executive board held in Paris from 13–18 October 2012 by Ghana, Mexico, and the Russian Federation (Board Members) and New Zealand (UNESCO Member State).[2] UNESCO delegates from Ghana and Mexico introduced the proposal to the Executive Board, explaining the motivation and mission underlying the International Year of Light. The resolution was adopted by the Executive Board joined by co-signatories from a further 28 Board Members.[3]

The IYL 2015 resolution was submitted to the United Nations Second Committee on 6 November 2013 by the nation of Mexico, with delegates from both Mexico and New Zealand speaking in support. The resolution was adopted with co-sponsorship from 35 countries: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and United States of America.

A number of preparatory actions are already planned during 2014, including coordinated outreach by the European Consortium for Outreach in Photonics via the GoPhoton! project, and many other local, regional and international events to raise awareness and to plan activities throughout 2015.


Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics cover page

The major scientific anniversaries that will be celebrated during 2015 are: the works on optics by Ibn Al-Haytham in 1015; the notion of light as a wave proposed by Fresnel in 1815; the electromagnetic theory of light propagation proposed by Maxwell in 1865; Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and of the embedding of light in cosmology through general relativity in 1915; the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson, and Charles Kao’s achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication, in 1965.


The IYL 2015 is endorsed by a number of international Scientific Unions and the International Council for Science. The IYL 2015 will be administered by an International steering committee convened by John M. Dudley in collaboration with the UNESCO International Basic Sciences Programme and a Secretariat at The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics which is a UNESCO Category 1 Institute. The Founding Scientific Sponsors of IYL2015 are: the European Physical Society,[4] SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics,[5] the Optical Society,[6] the IEEE Photonics Society, the American Physical Society and the international network. National and regional committees and contact points currently being established will ensure all nations of the world can participate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Summary of 71st Plenary Meeting of the 68th General Assembly GA/11478
  2. ^ "Decisions adopted by the Executive Board at its 190th session". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Press release of the EPS". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Press release of the EPS". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Press release of SPIE". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Press release of the OSA". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 

External links[edit]