A FIRM at the “forefront of photonics innovation” founded in Ilminster after World War II is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Global photonics leader Gooch & Housego is celebrating seven and a half decades of evolution.

A message from the company said: “This year, we are proud to celebrate 75 years of excellence in photonics and we look forward to being at the forefront of photonics innovation for many years to come.

“Gooch & Housego has evolved over seven and a half decades through the hard work of employees, a series of smart product developments, and strategic acquisitions."

Chard & Ilminster News: CEO Charlie PeppiattCEO Charlie Peppiatt (Image: G&H)

The story of G&H begins with two individuals, Archie Gooch and Leslie Housego.

Archie was trained by the company, Barr and Stroud, where he worked on rangefinders and periscopes.

During World War II, the Royal Air Force began to use radios in their bombers that utilized crystals requiring individuals with optical expertise to cut and polish quartz.

Archie and Leslie began working on these radios at Standard Telephones and Cables (STC ) in Greenwich, London, but were evacuated to Ilminster to escape the Blitz.

In 1948, after the war ended, Archie and Leslie founded their own optics fabrication company, Gooch & Housego (G&H), in Ilminster.

In 1980, the company achieved a significant milestone with the introduction of the acousto-optic Q-switch.

This breakthrough led to G&H's transformation into a company that supplied active crystal components to laser system vendors and helped revolutionize modern materials processing and advanced manufacturing in microelectronics.

Initially, G&H primarily supplied to UK government, industrial scientific research, and academic customers.

However, by the mid-1990s, the majority of their revenue came from acousto-optics devices supplied to overseas markets such as the United States, Germany, and Japan.

In 2023, GS Optics was acquired in order to further expand the group’s capabilities into polymer precision optics and increase the Group’s Life Sciences business. The acquisition also created a presence in Rochester, NY, the world’s leading center for optics.

G&H today is a world leader in the photonics industry with over 1,000 skilled employees working in design, engineering, sales, marketing, operational, and manufacturing across twelve facilities.

A spokesperson said: “As we look to the future, in 2023 we launched a new strategy for the Group focused on transforming G&H to a new level as an ‘innovative customer-focused technology company’ for the next chapter of our story.

“This will be delivered responsibly by making a ‘better world with photonics’ and ensuring that G&H remains the ’first choice’ for all our stakeholders whether that’s our employees, our customers, our shareholders, our eco-system partners, or the communities where we operate.”