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Born in 1929 in India, Rangaswamy Srinivasan earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from University of Southern California in 1956, focusing his thesis on protein chemistry. He completed post-doctoral work at California Polytechnic University and University of Rochester, and went on to IBM's Watson Research Center in New York from 1961 until his retirement from IBM in 1990. At IBM, he led a research group that studied the effects of ultraviolet lasers on organic material and ultimately discovered the excimer laser's non-damaging ablative properties through experiments on the tissue of his leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
His discovery of ablative photodecomposition in synthetic organic polymers in 1979 is currently used in the packaging of electronic chips and in the manufacture of ink-jet printers. After extending it to biological tissue in 1981, he and his IBM co-workers developed its application to ophthalmic surgery techniques LASIK and PRK.