Professor Emil Wolf, the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics and a faculty member at the University of Rochester for more than 50 years, celebrated his 90th birthday this year and the occasion was commemorated at the annual meeting of The Optical Society (OSA) last week. On Sunday, Oct. 14 at the meeting in Rochester, Wolf's current and past colleagues, students and collaborators offered a perspective on the field of optics, as well as sharing anecdotes from working with him. Wolf was in attendance at the conference – the 52nd such annual meeting he has attended.
Introducing the talks and reflecting on Wolf's contributions to optics for many years was Professor Joseph Eberly, his colleague at the University of Rochester. "Emil, you should know that your positive attitude and innovative thinking, and the publications that follow them, continue to be expected from you and will continue to inspire us. Don't spend a lot of time looking back – think of the decade ahead," said Eberly. These sentiments were echoed throughout the afternoon by the other speakers and reflect how even now Wolf's group continues to contribute to research in the field.
As Professor Nicholas Bigelow, the Lee A. DuBridge Chair in Physics and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has said about Wolf, "Virtually everyone who has studied optics in the last several decades has been influenced by Emil." He added, "He is known throughout the world as an intellectual giant in the field of optics, and known to his students as an extraordinary educator."
A leading expert in the fields of coherence and polarization properties of optical fields, he is well known for collaborating with Nobel Laureate Max Born on the book Principles of Optics. First published in 1959, it is now in its seventh edition and widely used by students to this day – just as a measure of its popularity, Google Scholar measures the book citations at over 40,000.
Further information about Professor Emil Wolf
Wolf is the recipient of the Frederic Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America (OSA) (1978), the Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute (1980), the Max Born Award of the OSA (1987), the Marconi Medal of the Italian National Research Council (1987), the Gold Medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science (1991), the Medal of the Union of Czechoslovak Mathematicians and Physicists (1991), the Gold Medal of Palacky University, Olomouc, Czechoslovakia (1991), the Esther Hoffman Beller Award for Outstanding Contributions to Optical Science and Engineering Education of the OSA (2002), and a Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award at the University of Rochester (2009). He is an honorary member of the OSA, of which he was the president in 1978. He is also an honorary member of the Optical Societies of India and Australia, the Czech Learned Society and the Romanian Academy of Science and Humanities, and is the recipient of honorary degrees from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands (1989), the University of Edinburgh (1990), Palacky University (1992), the University of Bristol (1997), Laval University, Quebec (1997), the University of Franche Comte, France (1999) and Aalborg University, Denmark (1999).