Emil Wolf, Pioneer of Optical Physics, Dies at 95

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NEWINGTON, Conn., June 6, 2018 — Emil Wolf, a pioneer in optical physics, died on June 2. He was 95.

Wolf, the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics at the University of Rochester, where he had taught and worked for nearly 60 years, cowrote with Nobel laureate Max Born the most cited textbook in physics, Principles of Optics (1958). His book Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics (1995), written with Len Mandel, is also considered a modern classic.

Emil Wolf
Emil Wolf was one of the most recognized optical scientists of his generation and served on the University of Rochester faculty for almost six decades. Courtesy of the University of Rochester/Richard Baker.

Born July 30, 1922, Wolf fled his native city of Prague and the occupying Nazis, ultimately landing in England, where he earned his doctorate in mathematics in 1948 at Bristol University. He then worked with Born at the University of Edinburgh, did his postgraduate work at the University of Manchester, and joined U. Rochester in 1959.

Wolf received the Frederic Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America (OSA) (1978), the Albert A. Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute (1980), the Max Born Award of the OSA (1987), the Marconi Medal of the Italian National Research Council (1987), the Gold Medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science (1991), the Medal of the Union of Czechoslovak Mathematicians and Physicists (1991), the Gold Medal of Palacky University, Olomouc, Czechoslovakia (1991), the Esther Hoffman Beller Award for Outstanding Contributions to Optical Science and Engineering Education of the OSA (2002), and a Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award at the University of Rochester (2009).

He was an honorary member of the OSA, where he served as president in 1978. He was also an honorary member of the Optical Societies of India and Australia, the Czech Learned Society, and the Romanian Academy of Science and Humanities. Wolf received honorary degrees from the University of Groningen (1989), the University of Edinburgh (1990), Palacky University (1992), the University of Bristol (1997), Laval University (1997), the University of Franche Comte (1999), and Aalborg University (1999).

Wolf is survived by his wife, Marlies, his daughter, Paula, and his son, Bruno.

Published: June 2018
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