Boris P. Stoicheff

Boris Stoicheff was born in Bitol, Macedonia, June 1, 1924 and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1931. Drawn to mathematics, Stoicheff studied engineering physics at the University of Toronto, where he obtained a B.A. Sc. in 1947. He went on to earn an M.A. in theoretical physics in 1948 and a Ph.D. in experimental physics in 1950.

During his career, Stoicheff performed some of the best high-resolution Raman spectroscopy in the world and published more than 150 papers on lasers, optics, and spectroscopy. In the 1950s, while working at the National Research Council of Canada, he presented detailed spectra and the derived molecular parameters of more than 20 nonpolar molecules. In the latter part of the decade, Stoicheff became interested in Brillouin scattering and used the high-powered optical sources available to him to observe some of the first Brillouin spectra in solids. Learning of the maser developed by Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow, Stoicheff considered that such a source would improve Brillouin spectroscopy studies. In their first attempts, Stoicheff and his colleagues worked on a laser based on the optical pumping of mercury. They reached the threshold for stimulated emission but could not get beyond that point. After Ted Maiman’s report of the ruby laser in 1960, Stoicheff built and used the first experimental laser in Canada.

After a sabbatical at MIT in Charles Townes' lab, Stoicheff returned to the University of Toronto in 1964, continuing his spectroscopy work and mentoring graduate students. After his Brillouin studies, Stoicheff moved to Rydberg spectroscopy of alkali atoms using two-photon spectroscopy techniques. This work set the stage for using coherent spectroscopies to design wave packets in atoms. He also developed tunable VUV sources using four-wave mixing in gases. This approach permitted his group to perform high-precision spectroscopy in rare-gas dimmers.

Throughout his career, Stoicheff made time to give back to the optics community. He served on many university, Canadian, and international committees. He served as president of both OSA and the Canadian Association of Physicists. He was also the founding director of the Ontario Laser and Lightwave Research Centre.

Stoicheff received the Gold Medal of the Canadian Association of Physicists, the Henry Marshall Tory Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, and OSA’s William Meggers and Frederic Ives Medals. He was a fellow of OSA, APS, the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Society of Canada. He was also an honorary fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian Academy of Science, and the Macedonian Academy of Science and Arts. He held four honorary degrees and was an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Stoicheff died in April 2010.

For for more on Boris Stoicheff watch his OSA History Interview.