University of Rochester

EVENT: Prestigious Institute of Optics Celebrates 75th Anniversary

October 8, 2004

The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester celebrates its 75th anniversary this year during the University’s Meliora Weekend and throughout next week. The highlights include the groundbreaking of a new building to be shared by optics and biomedical engineering, hosting the annual meeting of the Optical Society of America that includes an address by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, an exhibit on the life of one of the Institute’s founders, and the release of a book detailing the highlights of the Institute’s 75 years.

“This is an exciting time for us because we can look back at where the last 75 years have brought us while laying the groundwork for some of the Institute’s most exciting years to come,” says Wayne Knox, director of the Institute of Optics. “We’re especially honored that the optics community, as well as Senator Clinton, have turned out to recognize what a powerful force this institute has been in the world.”

The Institute of Optics was founded in 1929 as the nation’s first program of higher education in the field of optics, and has granted more than half of the optics bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the nation. Optics, the study of light, spans disciplines at the University such as biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, and medicine. In a recent National Research Council ranking of doctoral programs, the Institute of Optics ranked first of 147 departments in number of publications published per faculty member; publications including breakthroughs in quantum computing, record-setting nanoscale imaging, space telescope design, and more. The distinguished faculty includes 10 fellows of the Optical Society of America, four fellows of the International Society for Optical Engineering, and three fellows of the American Physical Society.

To propel the Institute into the next 75 years, Knox is breaking ground on a new 100,000-square-foot building that will house scientists studying both optics and biomedical engineering, with plenty of opportunities for collaboration. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new optics/biomedical engineering building will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10, at the building site adjacent to the Wilmot Building on the University of Rochester campus. The $30 million facility will include a new technology transfer program called the Center for Institute Ventures, which will help produce local high-tech, spin-off companies.

In honor of the anniversary, Clinton will address the Optical Society of America (OSA) at the plenary session at 5:25 p.m., on Monday, Oct. 11. The OSA is holding its annual meeting at the Rochester Convention Center from Oct. 10-14, in honor of the Institute. The Institute is running its own celebration at the convention center Oct. 14 and 15, alongside the OSA conference.

In addition to Clinton’s speech, Emil Wolf, professor of optics at the University of Rochester, will talk at the plenary session to deepen basic understanding of optics and advanced technology. Wolf will trace optics history from the 1860s to the 21st century to present a new development of which he played a major part: a unified theory of coherence and polarization, two key properties of light waves.

Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake, both key figures in the history of the Institute, will be honored in a special exhibit in the Main Hall of Rush Rhees Library until January 30, 2005. Rudolf Kingslake was one of two founding faculty members of the Institute of Optics in 1929 and a noted lens designer with the Eastman Kodak Co. His wife was also an accomplished scientist and historian of the Institute. For decades the Kingslakes were beloved members of the University of Rochester community as Rudolf continued his teaching activities long after retiring from Kodak.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired the Kingslake Archive, a meticulously kept record of their lives. The exhibit features extensive records of Rudolf’s youthful development as kept by his father, photographs, and a detailed map of Rudolf’s early travels. In addition, the exhibit chronicles the lives of the Kingslakes as they married, moved from England to the United States to help found the Institute, and continued their lifelong work in optics through book writing and collecting.

Finally, the Institute of Optics is releasing a book titled “A Jewel in the Crown,” which is dedicated to the Kingslakes. Edited by Carlos Stroud, Jr., professor of optics and director of the Center for Quantum Information at the University, the book chronicles the history of the Institute through 75 essays detailing pivotal people and research, as well as giving an impression of what working and learning at the Institute was like throughout the years. The final essay, written by Knox, details the outlook for the Institute as in aligns with the new Department of Biomedical Engineering and prepares to build the new biomedical/optics building to take the Institute into the future.