During its 68th session, which met in December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). In making this proclamation, the U.N. 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.” 

The U.N. resolution (A/RES/68/221) designated UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as the lead agency overseeing the program. That organization will work in conjunction with a consortium of hundreds of worldwide partners. Some of those partners will be international scientific unions and professional lighting associations, such as the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and the UNESCO International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP). Throughout the year, various activities, meetings, events, and lighting exhibitions and installations will occur across the globe as this cross-disciplinary education and outreach project highlights the importance of light and optical technologies. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate a number of important milestones in the history of the science of light. Some of the landmarks occurring in 2015 include the 1,000-year anniversary since the 11th century scientist Ibn Al-Haytham wrote Kitab al-Manazir ( The Book of Optics); the 200th anniversary of French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel’s first work introducing the theory of light as a wave (1815); and the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity (1915).

Opening ceremonies for the program and a two-day symposium with presentations by leading policy makers, scientists, and lighting designers took place on Jan. 19–20 at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. For an overview of IYL 2015 activities and the official schedule go to light2015.org. •