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Joseph Eberly honored as a ‘true visionary’ in optics

November 23, 2021

The Rochester physicist has been recognized for pioneering contributions to quantum optics theory.

Joseph Eberly.

Joseph Eberly
(University of Rochester photo / Brandon Vick)

Joseph Eberly, the Andrew Carnegie Professor of Physics and a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, has been selected as the 2021 Honorary Member of Optica, the international society for optics and photonics.

Honorary membership is the most distinguished member category for the organization previously known as OSA, the Optical Society of America.

Eberly’s research discoveries include:

  • The initial description of the spontaneous collapse and revival effect of coherence in the dynamics of a simple quantum model.
  • The first observation of Bessel beams.
  • Predictions of the recently observed non-spreading localized states of electrons in atoms.
  • The sudden death effect in quantum entanglement.

As Eberly tells it, his early interest in optics came about by accident. He was fresh out of graduate school when his supervisor at the Naval Ordnance Lab asked him about lasers.

“It seems silly now, but at the time I didn’t really know anything about them,” recalls Eberly,  discussing his career path in optics.

His supervisor wanted to know if lasers could be used to destroy submarines—an idea that was not feasible. Nonetheless, that nudge from his first non-academic boss helped prompt Eberly’s early interest in lasers, which led him to make the several pioneering contributions to the foundations of quantum optics theory that earned him the Optica award.

“Joe Eberly may have chosen a career in optics by accident, but the society is grateful that he did,” says Optica CEO, Elizabeth Rogan. “Joe’s research contributions to quantum optics and optical physics are numerous and impactful. His leadership as a teacher and educator in the Rochester community is long-lasting. He is a true visionary in the optical sciences, and we are proud to recognize him with our 2021 Honorary Membership.”

Eberly’s teaching excellence is reflected in the Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching that he received from the University in 2000 for introducing first year students to topics “usually reserved for upper-class and graduate-level students . . . demystifying and generating enthusiasm for the topics with his clarity, humor, and accessibility.”

He received the Distinguished Service Award from Optica in 2012 for outstanding service as founding editor of Optics Express, the first open access journal in physics.

Eberly earned his PhD in physics at Stanford University in 1962, joined the Department of Physics at Rochester in 1967, and then the Institute of Optics in 1979. In 1995, with funding from the National Science Foundation, he founded the Rochester Theory Center (RTC), a research group focused on optical and quantum optical science with faculty from several University departments.

Eberly is a fellow and former president of Optica and a fellow of APS, the American Physical Society. His other awards include the Townes Award and the Frederick Ives Medal from Optica, the Mariam Smoluchowski Medal of the Physical Society of Poland, the Senior Humboldt Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany, and election as a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Poland.

Eberly has published more than 400 scientific journal articles. He has coauthored three monographs and textbooks on lasers and quantum optics, one continuously in print for 45 years, and cofounded three international conferences for quantum optical physics.

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Category: Science & Technology