News & Events

 May 1, 2002

Wolf to Receive the 2002 Esther Hoffman Beller Award

Emil Wolf, Wilson Professor of Optical Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy (who also holds a joint appointment as Professor of Optics in the Institute of Optics) has been selected by the Board of Directors of the Optical Society of America (OSA) to be the 2002 recepient of the Esther Hoffman Beller Award, as announced in the May 2002 issue of Optics and Photonics News.

Wolf's citation states, "For numerous oustanding contributions as an educator, but especially for the influence of his books, which have been educating optical scientists and engineers for more than forty years."

Wolf is the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics at the University of Rochester. He co-authored "Principles of Optics" with Max Born and "Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics" with Leonard Mandel. He is also the editor of "Progress in Optics". Wolf is the recepient of numerous awards, including severn honorary degrees. He is an honorary member of OSA, the Optical Society of India, and the Optical Society of Australia. He served as OSA president in 1978.

Wolf has made numerous contributions to the theory of physical optics. He has published more than 300 papers, many of which have provided the foundation for the modern theory of optical coherence. His early work, involving the focal region structure of an electromagnetic field, is still a standard reference. Wolf has also contributed to the theory of direct and inverse scattering.

The Esther Hoffman Beller Medal is presented for outstanding contributions to optical science and engineering education. Consideration is given to outstanding teaching and/or original work in optics education that enhances the understanding of optics. The scope of the award is international. This award was endowed by a bequest from the estate of Esther Hoffman Beller, presented to OSA in 1992. The award, established in 1993, consists of a silver medal, a certificate, and $2,500.

Presentation of this award will take place during the awards ceremony at the 2002 Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America in Orlando, Florida, the week of September 29-October 3, 2002.

A list of winners of this award are:

2002 Emil Wolf
2001 Douglas S. Goodman
2000 Henry Stark
1999 Bahaa E. A. Saleh
1998 Amnon Yariv
1997 Angus MacLeod
1996 Donald O'Shea
1995 Joseph W. Goodman
1993 Robert G. Greenler

The following narrative includes excerts from the letter of nomination to the OSA.

Once in a very great while, a teacher and scholar has so profound an impact on a field as to reach the status of a living legend. Emil Wolf is a living legend. One of the truly great men of 20th-century science, Prof. Wolf is known throughout the world as an intellectual giant in the field of optics. Indeed, he is one of the founders of the modem field of optics through his seminal work on coherence, which ranks among the most widely cited contributions (a Citation Classic) in modem science. But Emil Wolf is also an extraordinary teacher, an educator of enormous impact who richly deserves the recognition of OSA's Esther Hoffman Beller Medal.

In 1959, Emil Wolf joined the faculty of the University of Rochester, where he founded a distinct school of thought that has been shaping the graduate education of fundamental and applied optical scientists for four decades. As noteworthy as his research accomplishments are, and as effective and influential as his leadership career has been (e.g., OSA President in 1978), Prof. Wolf is first and foremost a teacher, a role he cherishes. Over the decades, his guidance in the classroom has led two generations of graduate students through courses in Mathematical Physics, Electromagnetic Theory, Quantum Optics, Random Processes, Advanced Electricity and Magnetism, Modem Coherence Theory and Advanced Physical Optics. His personal supervision has steered dozens of those students through rigorous, groundbreaking doctoral research, and his example has inspired many of those students to build distinguished careers of their own in education and research.

One thing that sets Emil Wolf apart from all but a small handful of educators in the field of Optics is the enduring impact of his landmark book Principles of Optics. Through this book, Prof. Wolf has extended the range of his teaching beyond the boundaries of the campus out into the world at large. First published in 1959 as the successor to Nobel-laureate Max Born's Optik, and with the seventh (!) edition released in 1999, Principles of Optics (or "Born & Wolf' as it is known to all) has sold more than 300,000 copies. Virtually everyone alive who has studied Optics in a serious way has spent time with and been influenced by Born & Wolf. This means that Emil Wolf is not only a great teacher himself, but that he is also a teacher of great teachers. Dennis Hall, previous Director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, bought his first copy of Born & Wolf(4th edition) at the Caltech bookstore in 1979, 20 years after the original printing. We are certain that if one were to walk into the Caltech bookstore today, 40 years after the first printing, one would once again find the latest edition of Born & Wolf be one of the standard titles offered for sale on the Physics reference shelves. Born & Wolf become one of the defining textbooks in the field of Optics, marking its author, Emil Wolf, as one of the greatest living teachers in the field of Optics. (Note: Max Born died in January, 1970; Prof Wolf was Prof. Born's research assistant during 1951-1953. Emil Wolf has been the principal author of Born & Wolf the very beginning, but Max Born has always been listed as the first author out of Emil Wolf's deep respect for him.)

Prof. Wolf's long-time collaboration with the late Leonard Mandel has produced what might well become another classic in the field of Optics: Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics (1166 pages, Cambridge University Press, 1995). And this comes on top of his editing of the highly regarded book series Progress in Optics, which now numbers 41 volumes with more on the way. Through his superlative contributions as a teacher in the classroom, as a supervisor of graduate-student dissertation research, and as a popular and long-time OSA short-course lecturer, and, above all, through his far-reaching educational contributions to Optics through his influential books, Emil Wolf has earned the recognition the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal confers.