An alum of the class of 1973 writes, "Invented by Nikola Tesla, the plasma lamp was later developed and popularized by Bill Parker (Class of 1974). As an MIT undergrad, Parker accidentally rediscovered the glowing gas phenomenon, and explored it further as the youngest Fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS). He then became an Artist-in-Residence at the San Francisco Exploratorium, and pioneered the commercialization of the technology (as did Larry Albright, a Southern California artist). Another contemporary, Boston neon artist and former CAVS Fellow Alejandro Sina, created the glowing needles installation at the Alewife terminus of the Red Line subway, one of the largest permanent public art installations using plasma light.
The torch was also taken up by Wayne Strattman, a Boston artist/engineer who taught many courses on glassblowing and high-voltage glowing gas (including a stint at MIT). Strattman also edited "Neon Techniques" (4th ed.), a technical handbook that has become the "bible" of the field, and developed his own patented Luminglas glowing panel displays.
Today, luminescent plasma globes, tubes, and panels are prominently featured at theme parks and other entertainment venues, and have appeared in numerous movies and TV series, such as "Star Trek". The MIT Compton Gallery mounted a popular exhibition of plasma globes in the mid 1980s, as did the MIT Museum in the mid 1990s.
The MIT Museum has displayed an assortment of plasma globes developed by Bill Parker (MIT '74, MIT CAVS Fellow). Alejandro Sina, also a former MIT CAVS Fellow, remains active in Boston. Wayne Strattman, a currently active plasma artist in Boston, has taught at MIT."