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Laser Pioneer Anthony Siegman Dies at 79

Photonics.com
Oct 2011
STANFORD, Calif., Oct. 17, 2011 — Anthony Siegman, laser pioneer and professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford University, died Oct. 7 at his Stanford home. He was 79.

During his career, Siegman made many significant research contributions to microwave and quantum electronics, laser physics and devices, laser applications and optics, including publishing approximately 250 scientific articles. He wrote several texts on masers and lasers, including Microwave Solid-State Masers (1964), An Introduction to Lasers and Masers (1972) and Lasers (1986). The last book, at nearly 1300 pages, is the standard reference in the field.

Siegman invented the unstable resonator, which allows high laser power together with high beam quality. He is internationally recognized for his contributions to the theory and practice of laser mode-locking, a technique that is widely used both for generating intense and short laser pulses and for metrology.

Siegman is considered one of the few outstanding young scientists of his era to make the transition to quantum electronics. “At that time, microwave electronics was one of Stanford's particular strengths and an intellectually exciting field,” Siegman once said. “For me, it soon led to a natural evolution into the emerging areas of lasers and optical electronics.”

Stephen Harris, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and one of Siegman's first students, described him as "a blend of human warmth, scientific creativity and rigor."

"He is a model scientist," said Harris. "You would look far and wide to find a laser engineer or scientist who doesn't have Tony's book Lasers on his desk. He had a unique ability to blend mathematics and physical insight.

"He was an easygoing, nice guy to talk to, but when it came to science, he pushed for on-the-mark answers. Whatever he wrote was exemplary. He is a shining example of what a scientist should be," said Harris.

An OSA member for 50 years, Siegman served as president of the board of directors in 1999 and was an active participant on many OSA committees; he had served on the presidential advisory committee since 2000. He was instrumental in planning and executing LaserFest, the scientific community's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser in 2010. He was also an active supporter of the OSA Foundation (OSAF), which is dedicated to philanthropic programs that further the study of science. Siegman served on OSAF's board of directors from 2003 to 2008.

“We’ve lost a good friend, mentor, collaborator and icon within our community,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan. “His great passion for the field was evident in his talks, publications and interactions with all of us, and especially with his students. His ability to communicate very complicated concepts in a clear, concise and humorous way was remarkable. On behalf of the OSA board, members and staff, I express our deepest condolences to Tony's family and colleagues.”

Siegman was born in Detroit in 1931. In 1952, he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor's degree in engineering science. He also earned a master's in applied physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1954 and a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1957. Siegman was appointed to the Stanford electrical engineering faculty in 1956, where he served as a professor for more than four decades.

Siegman is survived by his wife, Virginia Howard Siegman of Stanford, three children, a stepdaughter and two grandchildren.

For more information, visit: www.stanford.edu


GLOSSARY
metrology
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
unstable resonator
A resonator often used for mode control in Fresnel number laser cavities that is highly vulnerable to extremely weak external sources of feedback.
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