James Wyant, University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences Namesake, Dies at 80

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TUCSON, Ariz., Dec. 8, 2023 — James Wyant, the founding dean and namesake of the University of Arizona James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, died Dec. 8, the University of Arizona announced. Wyant was 80 years old.

Wyant’s research focused on applying interferometry to metrology problems in fields including data storage, semiconductors, optical fabrication, and biomedicine. Wyant served as a professor, dean, business leader, and philanthropist throughout his career, as well as president of both OSA (now Optica) and SPIE. As director of the University of Arizona’s Optical Science Center, Wyant oversaw the center’s transition to a college in 2005. In 2019, the University of Arizona renamed the college in Wyant’s honor.

“Jim’s commitment to the success of the college and to the field of optics was nothing short of astonishing,” said Thomas Koch, dean and professor, Wyant College of Optical Sciences. “His academic leadership and philanthropic investments ensured that we would continue to grow, and recruit and support the best students and faculty — attracting the top people from around the world to make advances in optics that will improve our lives in unimaginable ways.”
James C. Wyant, professor emeritus and founding dean of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, died Dec. 8. Courtesy of the University of Arizona / Jacob Chinn.
James C. Wyant, professor emeritus and founding dean of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, died Dec. 8. Courtesy of the University of Arizona/Jacob Chinn. 
A recipient of numerous distinctions in the optics field, Wyant earned awards including Optica’s Frederic Ives Medal and Jarus W. Quinn Prize for his pioneering contributions in advancing the science and technology of quantitative interferometric metrology, his leadership as an educator and entrepreneur, and his visionary service to the global optics and photonics community. He was named an Optica Honorary Member this year, and he was a recipient of the OSA Joseph Fraunhofer Award, the SPIE Gold Medal, the SPIE Visionary Award, and the SPIE Technology Achievement Award. He was a five-time recipient of R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Award, as well as a five-time recipient of Laurin Publishing’s Photonics Circle of Excellence Award for optical products.

Wyant’s business acumen earned him numerous industry accolades, including the Eller College of Management Entrepreneurial Fellowship, Arizona’s Innovator of the Year Product Award, the Tom Brown Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award, and the University of Arizona Technology Innovation Award. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors. Wyant co-founded three optics companies in his career: WYKO Corp., DMetrix, and 4D Technology Corp.

Published: December 2023
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
The study and utilization of interference phenomena, based on the wave properties of light.
James WyantOpticsUniversity of ArizonaUniversity of Arizona College of Optical SciencesmetrologyinterferometryluminaryopticaSPIE

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