John M. J. Madey

In Memoriam: John M. J. Madey, 1943-2016

John M. J. Madey, OSA Senior Member and pioneer of the free electron laser, passed away on 5 July 2016 at the age of 73. A free electron laser can produce very high intensity and high quality coherent electromagnetic radiation that is tunable over a wide range of frequency.  Madey’s work on the free electron laser resulted in significant discoveries in the areas of physics, chemistry, biology and medicine.  Madey had been a member of The Optical Society for more than forty years and was recognized with Senior Member status in 2009.

Madey received his BS degree in Physics in 1964 and a MS degree in Quantum Electronics in 1965 from the California Institute of Technology. In 1970, he was awarded a PhD from Stanford University, and was appointed as professor (Research) of Electrical Engineering in 1986.  He accepted a position at Duke University in 1988 and was Director of the FEL research lab for more than a decade. In 1998, Madey joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Among his many awards and international recognitions are the Stuart Ballantine Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1989, the 2012 Robert R. Wilson Prize from the American Physical Society, and the 2016 Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics.  He was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Nobel Symposium on Free-Electron Lasers in Sigtuna, Sweden. 

Madey and his brother, Julius, developed interests in ham radios and Morse Code while growing up in their native Clark, New Jersey. This interest and curiosity led to relaying communications from the South Pole to families and friends in the United States.  His curiosity fueled his studies in physics and electronics and led to the discovery of the free electron laser. A service was held at the University of Hawai’i to commemorate his scientific achievements and friendships. In lieu of flowers, the Madey family asks donations be made to The Optical Society Scholarship Fund.