Arthur Ashkin Named Honorary Member of the Optical Society



Angela Stark
The Optical Society
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Arthur Ashkin Named Honorary Member of the Optical Society

Ashkin honored for pioneering work in optical trapping, optical tweezers

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 – The Optical Society (OSA) Board of Directors announced today that it has elected Arthur Ashkin as the newest honorary member of the society. Ashkin was chosen for his pioneering work on optical trapping and the development of optical tweezers. Ashkin retired from a distinguished 40-year career at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs in 1992.

“Art Ashkin is a true pioneer in the field of optical trapping, tweezing and laser cooling,” said OSA President Thomas Baer. “OSA is pleased to honor Art’s decades of research and accomplishments by naming him an honorary member. This designation is reserved for an elite group of individuals who are genuine visionaries in the optics and photonics community.”

At Bell Labs, Ashkin and his collaborators made the first observations of continuous wave (CW) laser harmonic generation, CW parametric amplification, discovered the photorefractive effect and initiated the field of nonlinear optics in optical fibers.  Ashkin is best known for his work on radiation pressure using laser beams and the subsequent invention of optical trapping. To many, he is known as the father of the field of laser radiation pressure. His first work in this area concerned the optical trapping and manipulation of small dielectric particles using optical gradient forces. He quickly extended this work to the trapping and manipulation of living material such as bacteria, which later became known as “optical tweezers.”

Ashkin also demonstrated the first observation of optical gradient forces on atoms, the first observation of the laser cooling of atoms (known as “optical molasses”) and the first demonstration of the optical trapping of atoms. The ability to cool and trap atoms has led to spectacular advances in basic science, such as the creation of Bose-Einstein condensates in atomic vapor.

Ashkin is the winner of numerous awards in the field, including the OSA’s Frederick Ives Medal/Jarus W. Quinn Endowment (1998) and Charles Hard Townes Award (1988), APS’s Joseph F. Keithley Award For Advances in Measurement Science (2003), the Rank Prize in Opto-Electronics (1993), the IEEE Photonics Society’s Quantum Electronics Award (1987), and the Harvey Prize for physics (2004), among others. He was named an OSA Fellow in 1983, and is also a Fellow of the APS, IEEE and AAAS. Ashkin is the recent author of Optical Trapping and Manipulation of Neutral Particles Using Lasers, published by World Scientific Publishing Company. He holds 47 patents.

Honorary membership at OSA is given to those who have made unique, seminal contributions to the field of optics. The number of honorary members cannot exceed two-thousandths (2/1000) of the total OSA membership. Election requires the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, based on the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee and the Awards Committee of the Board. For a complete listing of OSA's honorary members, visit OSA’s Website.

About OSA
Uniting more than 106,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit