In Memoriam: Isaac Abella, 1934-2016
Isaac Abella, OSA Fellow and noted physicist, passed away on 23 October at the age of 82. Abella specialized in laser physics, quantum optics, and spectroscopy of rare-Earth laser materials. Over the course of his career, Abella would become a beloved teacher and mentor to undergraduate students at the University of Chicago.
Abella was born in Toronto, Canada, and earned a bachelor of arts in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto (1957) and a masters and doctorate in physics from Columbia University (1964). While at Columbia, he had the opportunity to study under Nobel Laureate Charles H. Townes and his doctoral thesis entitled, Some Properties of Ruby Optical Masers with Applications to Non-Linear Effects, published in 1963, was among the earliest work on two-photon absorption.
Upon completion of his PhD, Abella accepted a teaching position at the University of Chicago in 1965, where he would remain on faulty for more than 45 years. Abella was an accomplished scholar and over the course of his career served as a fellow at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in Boulder, CO; a visiting scientist at the Optical Sciences Division of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC; and a guest scientist at the National Bureau of Standards at the Boulder Laboratories. He was active in several professional organizations including the American Physical Society, Chicago Chapter of Sigma Xi, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Abella was a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, member of the NAS Mathematics (K-12) Standards Review Committee, and University of Chicago’s Physics Department Teaching Activities Committee.
Abella and his wife, Mary Ann, served as resident masters for 16 years at Shoreland dormitory and were devoted to the students as well as their family. Abella enjoyed writing letters to the editor and taking field trips to the Lyric Opera. Abella retired from the University when he was 77. He is survived by his two children, two siblings, and six grandchildren.