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Stephen Harris Named Honorary Member of OSA
Oct 2013
WASHINGTON, October 23, 2013 — Stephen E. Harris, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and applied physics at Stanford University, has been elected as the newest honorary member of The Optical Society. Known for his work in lasers, quantum electronics, nonlinear optics and atomic physics, he joins a group of only 45 such members elected since the society was founded in 1916.

Harris, who is also an OSA Fellow, was chosen for his "pioneering and profoundly influential contributions to the science of light, including optical parametric emission, lasing without inversion, electromagnetically induced transparency and single-cycle optical pulse generation," the OSA board of directors said.

Examples of his early contributions include the observation of parametric down conversion, the invention of the tunable acousto-optic filter, phase-matched third-harmonic generation in metal vapors and laser-induced collisions. In the late 1980s he suggested a technique for making lasers that could operate without requiring a population inversion (now termed LWI), an idea that contradicted the opening paragraphs of all books on lasers. Within several years, this led to the first observation of electromagnetically induced transparency and its use for nonlinear optics and slow light.

"Steve's groundbreaking research in nonlinear optics set the tone for his career of impressive 'firsts,' " said OSA President Donna Strickland. "Steve never hesitated to be of service to the optical community, both locally at Stanford and internationally to peers around the globe. He shared his vision and his passion for science in many ways — through his students, his publications, his presentations, so that the path he paved can be extended by others."

Harris received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford. After receiving his doctorate in 1963, he was appointed assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford. In later years, he directed Stanford's Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory (1983-1988) and was chair of the applied physics department (1993-1996). He holds 16 US patents and has 230 journal publications. His awards include the Frederic Ives Medal, the highest award given by OSA; the Schawlow Prize of the American Physical Society; the David Sarnoff Award of the IEEE and the 2007 Harvey Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Honorary membership at OSA is given to those who have made unique, seminal contributions to the field of optics, the society said. The number of such members cannot exceed two-thousandths of the total OSA membership, and election requires the unanimous vote of the board.

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