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History

XENON was founded in 1964 by three brothers in the basement of a family home in Quincy, Massachusetts. But the story really begins a few years earlier, when Lou Panico, an engineering student at Northeastern University, worked with Dr. Harold Edgerton. Edgerton was doing pioneering work in high-speed motion photography. Collaborating with a photographer, Edgerton used strobe lights—extremely rapid flashes of light—to create dramatic photographs of people and things in motion, often capturing events that had never been seen before by the human eye. His work is still famous today.

Lou Panico was already an entrepreneur, having started his own TV repair business at the age of 19. He saw the potential to do much more with this interesting new light technology, and in 1964 he and his brothers, Richard and Gene, launched XENON Corporation to develop, manufacture, and market Pulsed Light technology for industrial, scientific, food processing, medical, and other applications. Gene, like Lou, was an engineer, and Richard took care of the financial side of the business. In those early months, Lou worked at night selling encyclopedias to help pay the bills.

But soon the business took off. The first project was for a laser pump, and not long after came a contract to work on the first transatlantic fiber cable. Within a year they had moved from the basement to an abandoned ice house in Watertown, where they began to hire their first employees. Within a few more years, XENON was thriving and had begun introducing a series of breakthroughs in Pulsed Light technology and applications that continue to this day.

XENON is now a global company and the recognized leader in Pulsed Light, headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Gene and Richard have passed away, but Lou still serves as CEO.

Some years ago, Lou Panico was asked to give a talk to a few hundred MIT graduates on the subject of starting a business on a shoestring. His advice then was the same as it is now: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” 

One of the iconic images generated as a result of the work done with strobe photography by Harold Edgerton.

One of the iconic images generated as a result of the work done with strobe photography by Harold Edgerton.

Left: Lou and Rich Panico at the kitchen table, where it all began.Right: The three brothers at an early shareholders meeting.

Left: Lou and Rich Panico at the kitchen table, where it all began. Right: The three brothers at an early shareholders meeting.

1967 Ribbon cutting ceremony at XENON’s new Watertown facility with Lou Panico and the mayor.

1967 Ribbon cutting ceremony at XENON’s new Watertown facility with Lou Panico and the mayor.

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