W. Lewis (Lem) Hyde

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OSA News

W. Lewis Hyde (1919-2003)

Former OSA president W. Lewis ("Lem") Hyde, a noted physicist and the provost of the University Heights campus of New York University (NYU) during the Vietnam War, died January 9, 2003, in Cambridge, Mass. He was 83 years old. The apparent cause of death was a heart attack.

Hyde graduated from Harvard College in 1941 and served as a research physicist at Polaroid Corp. during World War II. He received his doctoral degree in physics from Harvard in 1949. His specialty was optical physics, in particular the design of optical instruments.

In 1948, he became assistant director of research at Baird Associates, an instrument and consulting firm in Cambridge. In early 1950, he became a scientific liaison officer for the U.S. Office of Naval Research in London. He returned to the United States in 1953 to join American Optical Co. in Southbridge, Mass., and later became the director of development of its Fecker Optical Division, a manufacturer of large optical instruments, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

He held numerous patents for a range of optical instruments, including the apparatus now commonly used to test for glaucoma by measuring the intraocular pressure of the eye.

In the 1960s, he turned from industrial science to teaching and research, serving as a professor in the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, as associate dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science of the University and, beginning in 1965, as director of the Institute of Optics.

Hyde's tenure as director of the Institute of Optics was particularly significant, wrote the late Hilda Kingslake in her History of the Institute of Optics, 1929-1987. "The university community began to hear of the Institute as never before. Hyde's own professional interest was in high-precision instrument design, an interest not represented on the faculty since the time of Gustave Fassin in the early days of the Institute. Hyde gave a very popular course with a great array of specimens for discussion." In 1966, Hyde organized the first International Lens Design Contest, a competition that is still being held today.

He left Rochester in 1968 to become provost of the University Heights Campus of New York University in the Bronx. There, he dealt with turbulent student opposition to the Vietnam War and the presence of the ROTC on campus, as well as the financial problems of a campus in a changing neighborhood. In 1972, NYU sold the campus to New York City, which made it the site of Bronx Community College.

In 1972, Hyde became the executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges. He retired in 1979.