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Pioneer in Optics, Thin Films Dies
Mar 2010
CHICAGO, March 24, 2010 — William P. Strickland, a pioneer in optics and thin films died last month at the age of 92. Strickland was involved in the development of the optical coating industry since the 1930s. He developed optics and coatings for the renowned Simpson Optical Co. in Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s. He ultimately founded Brysen Optical Co. in Safety Harbor, Fla. He continued his work and developed new processing techniques even into his 80s.

Strickland began his optics career working with early thin films researcher Dr. George S. Monk at the University of Chicago in the 1930s. He was involved in the development of early 3-color separation systems for cinema cameras at Prizmacolor Corp. and spent some time in Hollywood demonstrating it. From there he moved to the Simpson Optical Manufacturing Co, where he worked on Simpson’s technical staff in a team that would produce other leaders in the optics field such as Warren J. Smith.

When the US entered World War II, he assumed that he would be drafted into the army. Being a recreational sailor he went down to enlist in the Navy. Military personnel overseeing efforts at Simpson Optical interceded telling him not to enlist as his full efforts were needed on the job to develop optics and coatings in support of the war effort. He developed coatings for the Norden Bomb site, among other programs. After the war, he was granted a patent for the Vernac Measurement System, a high-accuracy optical measurement device for machine tools.

When Simpson Optical was purchased in 1962 by Infrared Industries, Strickland, who was now vice president, was sent to Santa Barbara, Calif. to build a new facility. He developed optics for programs such as the Redeye Missile. He worked briefly for Textron and for an ophthalmic lens company.

In 1970, he founded Brysen Coating Laboratories, later called Brysen Optical Corp., which is now a division of Flir Systems. Brysen provided vacuum coating of optical thin films and manufactured reticles, primarily for military applications. The company had extensive vacuum coating facilities, pattern etching, optical fabrication and polishing, and a machine shop. In 1990, his grandson and son-in-law spun off BryCoat Inc. as a metallurgical PVD vacuum coating company.

Strickland was an innovator who developed numerous new techniques. He was one of the first to use Ion Beam enhancement of the coating process for production optics. His contributions to the fields of optics and thin films were frequently unpublished because many of them were defense related.

Strickland was born in Chicago in 1918. He grew up around his father’s machine shop and, from an early age, knew how to operate lathes and mills. He was frequently seen in the machine shop of his own company making a fixture or device.

Strickland is survived by his wife of 71 years, Ellen, daughter Carol Smith, son William B. Strickland, 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

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