University of Rochester

Rudolf Kingslake, Founding Faculty Member of Optics, Dies

March 13, 2003

Rudolf Kingslake, a founding faculty member of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, died Feb. 25, eleven days after the death of his wife, Hilda Kingslake, a prominent figure in her own right in the optics community. They were honored in 1989 with the creation of the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professorship, the first named chair for the Institute of Optics.

"Rudolf was responsible for training most of our nation's lens designers and their intellectual progeny," says Duncan Moore, the current Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering. "For years he was the foremost teacher of lens design; the long legacy of American higher education in this area traces directly back to him."

Rudolf Kingslake was one of the first two faculty members of the Institute in 1929. When University of Rochester officials, together with officials at Eastman Kodak Co. and Bausch & Lomb, decided to begin an institute devoted to optics, they searched worldwide for qualified scientists. Their search led to London, where Kingslake was working after graduating from the optics program at Imperial College.

For eight years Kingslake taught at the Institute of Optics before joining Eastman Kodak Co. in 1937. There he headed lens design until he retired in 1969, establishing himself as one of the world's greatest lens designers. The university was unable to find a scientist who taught lens design so well, so Kingslake eventually agreed to continue teaching an evening course-an arrangement he continued for 45 years as a part-time faculty member. Until just a few years ago, Kingslake still taught lens design techniques during the Institute's annual summer school sessions for scientists in industry.

Hilda Kingslake is also well known in the optical community. She had been active as a scientist, author and educator and wrote an extensive history of the Institute and the Optical Society of America (OSA). Both she and her husband received special medals from the University in 1980 for their contributions to the university and the Institute.

Rudolf Kingslake was born Rudolf Klickmann in 1903, to be renamed Kingslake along with his parents and four siblings in 1917. Educated in private schools, he attended London's Imperial College, earning his master's degree in 1926. It was there that Kingslake had met Hilda Conrady, who was also a student-and daughter-of Kingslake's thesis advisor, A. E. Conrady. After graduation, he joined Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons and Co. in Newcastle-on-Tyne as an optical designer, then moved to the International Standard Electric Company in London before his recruitment to the University of Rochester.

Kingslake was president and an honorary member of the Optical Society of America. He was awarded the Frederic Ives Medal in 1973, the Gold Medal of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers in 1980, and was named Rochester Engineer of the Year in 1978. He is also well known for three classical books on optics: Lenses in Photography, Optical System Design, and Lens Design Fundamentals, as well as his edited series on Applied Optics and Optical Engineering.

A. E. Conrady, Hilda Kingslake's father, had published the book Applied Optics and Optical Design: Part One in 1929, but he was unable to complete the second installment before his death. The Kingslakes used his notes and manuscripts to complete the second volume of his work in 1960.

Hilda Kingslake's technical papers are still referenced and have lasting and significant value; her insightful contributions on the history of optics are equally valuable, including her Fifty-Year History of the Optical Society of America 1916-1966 and The First Fifty Years, The Institute of Optics 1929-1979 together with its sequel The Institute of Optics 1929-1987.

In proposing the establishment of a professorship in the Kingslakes's honor, the nominating committee wrote of Rudolf: "[He] has truly become the father of lens design in the United States and is considered by all of the lens designers as the grand master of the art."

Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake, 99 and 100 respectively, both passed away at the Episcopal Church Home in Rochester, N.Y. Contributions in their memory may be made to: The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, Wilmot 123, River Campus, Box 270186, Rochester, N.Y., 14627; or to the George Eastman House, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, N.Y., 14607.