Seibert Q. Duntley

Seibert Quimby Duntley was born in Bushnell, Illinois on October 2, 1911. He received an S.B. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1933, an M.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1935 and an Sc.D. in physics from MIT in 1939.

Duntley's primary interest was in applied physics particularly the optics of turbid media. He started MIT’s Visibility Laboratory in 1939. It was conceived by Duntley and MIT physics chair Arthur C. Hardy. The lab was focused on applying optics to such problems as camouflage, misdirection of aerial bombardment, target location, visibility of submerged objects at sea. In 1952, after some negotiation, the laboratory would be moved from MIT to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, Calif. The U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships paid for the relocation.

Once the move was completed major projects at the laboratory centered on the transmission of visible light through the atmosphere and water and related problems of visibility and recognition. Other studies which Duntley initiated or to which he made major contributions included the development of specialized photoelectric scanning and detection systems, the mathematics and physical implementation of digital image processing, and the remote sensing of ocean properties from aircraft and space. He also performed experiments with the world’s first underwater laser.

When Duntley resigned as director of the Visibility Laboratory in 1975, and then retired in 1977, he had written over 100 papers in physics and optics on topics that ranged from spectrophotometry of living human skin to remote sensing. He received international recognition for his work in what became known as environmental optics.

Duntley was an active member of many professional associations, particularly the Optical Society of America and Sigma Xi. He was Chairman of the Representatives of the Optical Society on the U.S. National Committee of the International Commission on Illumination. During the 1960s he was a member of the Armed Forces-National Research Council Committee on Vision. He was a participant in the 1971 JASON Laser Summer Study.

He received many awards for his research including the Army-Navy Certificate of Appreciation and OSA’s Frederic Ives Medal.

Duntley died in 1999.