University of Rochester

Professor Awarded Medal by Optical Society of America

May 22, 2002

Emil Wolf, Wilson Professor of Optical Physics at the University of Rochester, has been selected by the Optical Society of America (OSA) to receive the 2002 Esther Hoffman Beller Medal. The international award is presented for exceptional contributions to optical science and engineering education, especially outstanding teaching and original work in education that enhances the understanding of optics. The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the OSA in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 29.

Wolf will be receiving the medal "for numerous outstanding contributions as an educator, but especially for the influence of his books, which have been educating optical scientists and engineers for more than 40 years," according to the OSA's citation.

Wolf, who co-authored Principles of Optics and Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics, has received many awards including seven honorary degrees and served as president of the OSA in 1978. He has made significant contributions to the theory of physical optics with the more than 300 research papers he has published-many of which have provided the foundation for the modern theory of optical coherence. His early work involving the structure of focal region of an electromagnetic field is still a standard reference. Wolf also contributed significantly to the theory of direct and inverse scattering.

"Once in a very great while, a teacher and scholar has so profound an impact on a field as to reach the stature of a living legend," said the OSA board. "Emil Wolf has done just that. He is known throughout the world as an intellectual giant in the field of optics. Not only is he one of the founders of the modern field of optics, but he is also an extraordinary teacher, an educator of enormous impact who richly deserves the recognition of the OSA's Esther Hoffman Beller Medal."

In 1959, Emil Wolf joined the faculty of the University and founded a school of optics that has been shaping the graduate education of optical scientists for four decades. His guidance has led two generations of graduates through groundbreaking research and inspired many to build distinguished careers of their own in education and research. Principles of Optics, which he co-authored with Nobel Laureate Max Born, was first published in 1959 and is now in its seventh edition, with more than several hundred thousands of copies sold. "Virtually everyone who has studied optics in the last several decades has been influenced by Wolf," says Arie Bodek, chair of the department of physics and astronomy.

The OSA award was endowed in 1992 by a bequest from the estate of Esther Hoffman Beller. It consists of a silver medal, a certificate, and $2,500.