OSA Milestones 1916 – 2012

The milestones listed below note significant OSA events and accomplishments from 1916, when the Society was established in Rochester, New York, to the present day. For more on the history of OSA and our industry, visit www.osahistory.org, a dynamic archive devoted to the extraordinary people who have advanced the field of optics and photonics.



  • Thirty charter members established the Optical Society of America (OSA).
  • Rochester, NY, USA became the first local section.
  • First meeting of the Society, under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), held at Columbia University.


  • First printed copy of the original Constitution, Bylaws and Directory.

1918 -1920

  • The Journal of the Optical Society of America (JOSA) devoted to all branches of optics established.
  • Society membership reached 200.
  • Fifth Annual Meeting, the first of a series held jointly with the American Physical Society (APS), the last held under the auspices of the AAAS.
  • Colorimetry Committee established.


  • Earliest official grant received from the National Research Council.
  • Seventh Annual Meeting held with first exhibit of optical apparatus and instruments.
  • First advance meeting program printed.


  • Journal subscriptions offered in bloc to members of APS at $3 each.


  • Society membership reached 400.
  • Helmholtz Physiological Optics translation published.


  • Society membership reached 450, including 25 from 10 foreign countries.


  • First OSA award established: Frederic E. Ives Medal for distinguished work in optics.
  • Proceedings of the Michelson Meeting and Brief Account of the Optical Exhibition published.


  • The American Institute of Physics (AIP) incorporated by the OSA, APS, Acoustical Society of America (ASA), Society of Rheology (SOR) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).


  • The Optical Society of America, Inc. incorporated in New York State.
  • The Seal of the Society was struck.


  • The Adolph Lomb Medal established for contribution to optics at an early age.


  • Board of Directors voted to amend the bylaws to create the “Emeritus Membership” category.


  • Detroit, MI, USA recognized as second local section, followed by six others between 1947 and 1952.


  • Committee on Uniform Color Scales established.


  • The Edgar D. Tillyer Award established to recognize distinguished work in the field of vision.


  • Society offices established in Washington, DC, USA.
  • Translation of Optika i Spektroskopiya as Optics and Spectroscopy began publication.
  • Mary Warga appointed OSA’s first Executive Secretary.
  • Board of Directors voted to amend the by-laws to create the “Fellow Membership” category.


  • Board of Directors met for the first time at the new headquarters in Washington, DC, USA
  • Applied Optics began publication.


  • Executive Committee established.
  • The C.E.K. Mees Medal established to honor those who exemplify the thought that “optics transcends all boundaries.”


  • OSA launches Optics — An Action Program establishing optics education and outreach as a permanent tenet of the Society.


  • Society membership reached 4,500.
  • Soviet Journal of Optical Technology first translated and published by OSA.
  • OSA celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, USA.
  • The David Richardson Medal established to recognize significant contributions to optical engineering.


  • OSA forms the Technical Council as the primary mechanism for planning OSA meetings.


  • William F. Meggers Award established to recognize outstanding work in spectroscopy.
  • Jarus W. Quinn appointed OSA’s first Executive Director.


  • Chair of the Technical Council granted membership on the Board of Directors.


  • The first Topical Meeting, Integrated and Guided-Wave Optics, held.


  • OSA budget exceeded $1 million.
  • The Distinguished Service Award established to recognize service to the optical community.


  • Optics News began publication six times a year.
  • The Ellis R. Lippincott Award established to recognize significant contributions to vibrational spectroscopy.
  • The R. W. Wood Prize established to recognize contributions that open new eras of research or expand an existing one.


  • Optics Letters began publication.


  • OSA published the first edition of the Handbook of Optics.


  • Optical Fiber Transmission topical meeting became Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) conference with an exhibit.
  • OSA purchased new headquarters on Jefferson Place, NW in Washington, DC, USA.


  • The Charles Hard Townes Award established for outstanding work in the field of quantum electronics.


  • Conference on Laser Engineering and Applications (CLEA) and Conference for Electro-Optical Systems (CLEOS) joined to form the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO).
  • OSA assumes publishing role for its journals previously held by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).


  • First student chapter established in Rochester, NY, USA.
  • The Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize established to recognize significant accomplishments in optical engineering.
  • The Max Born Award established to recognize contributions to physical optics.


  • OSA joined with IEEE/Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (IEEE/LEOS) to publish the Journal of Lightwave Technology.


  • JOSA was split into two journals: JOSA A and JOSA B.


  • Optics News began monthly publication.
  • OSA budget exceeded $5 million.


  • The John Tyndall Award established to recognize significant contributions to the field of fiber optics technology.
  • Individual OSA journal editors no longer members of Board of Directors; Board of Editors established with one seat on Board of Directors.


  • Society membership exceeded 10,000.
  • OSA Engineering Council formed to expand engineering programs.
  • The Engineering Excellence Award established to recognize technical achievements in optical engineering.


  • OSA purchased new headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue, NW in Washington, DC, USA.


  • Applied Optics published monthly in three separate divisions: Optical Technology, Lasers & Photonics and Information Processing.
  • Optics News becomes Optics & Photonics News (OPN).


  • OSA celebrated its 75th anniversary at OSA’s Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA, USA.
  • OSA budget exceeded $10 million.


  • Third division of Applied Optics renamed Lasers, Photonics and Environmental Optics.
  • The Edwin H. Land Medal established to recognize pioneering entrepreneurial creativity.


  • OSA Executive Director Jarus W. Quinn retired after 24 years of service.
  • The Esther Hoffman Beller Medal established for contributions to optical science and engineering education.


  • OSA offered first electronic products: OSA Contents and OSA Early Notice.
  • Jarus W. Quinn/Ives Medal Endowment Fund created.
  • First CLEO/Europe held in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • OSA “OpticsNet” Web site launched.


  • OSA produced first CD-ROM, featuring the Optics Index and 1994 Optics Letters.
  • First division of Applied Optics renamed Optical Technology and Biomedical Optics.
  • First CLEO/Pacific Rim held in Chiba, Japan.


  • OSA CD-ROM Series added full text and figures to all four of OSA’s primary journals.
  • OSA celebrated 80th Anniversary by sealing time capsule to be opened in 2016.
  • OSA public policy program established.
  • Trends in Optics & Photonics Series (TOPS) inaugurated.


  • Optics Express, the first all-electronic journal, launched.
  • Optics Letters launched online.
  • The Nick Holonyak, Jr. Award established for contributions in the field of semiconductor-based optical devices and materials.
  • The OSA Leadership Award/New Focus–Bookham Prize established to strengthen the link between the optics community and the public.
  • The New Focus–Bookham Student Award established to encourage excellence in the optics community among OSA student members.


  • JOSA A, JOSA B and Applied Optics launched online.
  • John A. Thorner appointed OSA’s Executive Director.


  • First Technical Digest on CD-ROM produced.
  • Meeting submissions went 100% electronic.
  • OSA International Council formed to expand products and services to OSA’s global community.
  • OSA members vote on potential merger with SPIE resulting in the decision to remain an independent society.


  • Society membership exceeded 13,000.
  • Corporate Associate Membership reached 126.
  • OpticsInfoBase.org, OSA’s online repository of peer-reviewed information,  launched.
  • OSA budget exceeded $30 million.
  • New online manuscript submission system and management system (incorporating a relational database) implemented for journals.


  • Society membership exceeded 15,000.
  • Corporate Associate Membership reached 225.
  • OSA Technical Council and Engineering Council merge as the Science and Engineering Council.
  • OFC attendance grew to over 38,000 and the total number of exhibitors reached 970.
  • Journal of Optical Networking (JON) launched.
  • WORKinOPTICS.com launched.
  • Anthony M. Johnson from the New Jersey Inst. of Tech., serves as OSA’s first African-American Board President.


  • Elizabeth A. Rogan becomes Executive Director by unanimous vote of the Board of Directors.
  • Student Membership grew by 36%.
  • OPN Online, OpticsForKids.org, ETOPonline.org and OpticsEducation.org launched.
  • Applied Optics celebrated 40th year, Optics Letters celebrated 25th year, Optics Express entered 5th year of publication.
  • Developing nations member dues structure introduced.
  • Electronic submissions now required for all OSA journals.
  • OSA Foundation formed; Gary Bjorklund, 1998 OSA President, named OSA Foundation Chair.


  • OSA and partners awarded $1.7M NSF grant in support of Hands-On-Optics, Making an Impact with Light education initiative.
  • Student Chapters totaled 47 world-wide.
  • OpticsforTeens.org Web site launched.
  • The 2nd edition of The Science of Color is co-published with Elsevier, 50 years after the first edition was originally printed.
  • First XML journal articles published in the Journal of Optical Networking (JON).


  • Peter L. Knight from London’s Imperial College serves as OSA’s first European Board President.
  • From 2003 to 2004, Optics Express submissions increased by 175%; articles published nearly doubled.
  • The OSA and OSA Foundation Boards approved the Foundation’s $10 million Centennial Fundraising Plan.
  • New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was a guest plenary speaker during the ‘04 Frontiers in Optics (FiO) Conference in Rochester, NY, USA.
  • Lifetime and multi-year membership introduced.
  • Ownership of the National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (NFOEC) transferred to OFC.


  • Three OSA Fellows, Drs. Hall, Glauber and Hänsch, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • Five OSA journals ranked among the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) top 15 most highly cited optics publications.
  • Journal of Display Technology launched in partnership with IEEE.
  • Actively participated in the “World Year in Physics,” a year-long program marking the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s “miraculous year” in which he published three important papers describing ideas that have since influenced all modern physics.
  • Introduced early online posting of accepted journal papers.
  • The Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award established to recognize authorship of an outstanding book in the field of optics and photonics.


  • Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics (VJBO) launched with content selections from all OSA journals.
  • OSA partners with the Society for Applied Spectroscopy to add the Applied Spectroscopy to OpticsInfoBase.org.
  • OSA conference proceedings added to OpticsInfoBase.org.
  • OSA Student Chapters exceed 100, from more than 27 countries.
  • OSA secures a congressional resolution honoring the 2005 Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry.
  • OSA celebrates its 90th anniversary during the Frontiers in Optics (FiO)/OSA Annual Meeting event held in Rochester, NY, USA.
  • Emmett N. Leith Medal established to recognize seminal contributions to the field of optical information processing.


  • Optics Express and Optics Letters ranked by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) as the first and second most highly cited journals in the optics field.
  • JOSA A celebrated 90th year of publication; Optics Express celebrated 10th anniversary.
  • The Herbert Walther Award established in partnership with the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG).
  • OSA History Program launched in preparation for 2016 centennial anniversary.
  • OSA Foundation assets exceeded $3.5 million.
  • First IONSTM (International OSA Network of Students) Conference was held in Barcelona, Spain.


  • Select articles in JOSA A and Optics Express feature “OSA Interactive Science Publishing” (ISP) three-dimensional image viewing and large data set access technology.
  • Optics Letters and Optics Express continue to be ranked first and second by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) as the most highly cited journals in the optics field.
  • Time from submission to publication for OSA journals reduced 30%-40% since 2006.
  • The Corning Outstanding Student Paper Award and Maiman Student Paper Competition were launched at OFC/NFOEC and CLEO/QELS respectively.
  • First annual Harvey M. Pollicove Memorial Scholarship, awarded to a student pursuing a degree in the field of precision optics manufacturing.
  • OSA Student Chapters exceed 140, from more than 32 countries.
  • First IONSTM (International OSA Network of Students) Conference held in Barcelona, Spain


  • Three OSA members, Drs. Kao, Boyle and Smith, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • OSA Honorary Member and Nobel Prize winner, Steven Chu appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy.
  • OSA published six of the top twelve top optics journals as measured by citations or Eigenfactor.
  • Advances in Optics and Photonics featuring invited reviews and tutorials débuted.
  • Journal of Optical Communications and Networking launched in partnership with IEEE.
  • First annual Emil Wolf Outstanding Student Paper Competition was held during the OSA Annual Meeting/Frontiers in Optics.
  • The Senior Member category was added to OSA’s membership offerings.


  • “LaserFest,” a yearlong global celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser, was held in collaboration with APS, SPIE and IEEE Photonics Society. 100 partners participated and over 340 media impressions were generated.
  • Jean Bennett Travel Grant and Robert S. Hilbert Memorial Student Travel Grant programs were awarded for the first time.
  • Biomedical Optics Express journal and the Energy Express supplement to Optics Express launched.
  • The Journal of the Optical Society of Korea content was added to Optics InfoBase.
  • OSA published six of the top twelve optics journals as measured by 2009 citations or Eigenfactor (reported in 2010).


  • The Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) became a division of the OSA.
  • The first “Lasers and Their Applications Summer School” hosted in partnership with CIOMP.
  • Retired OSA Executive Director, Jarus Quinn unanimously elected Honorary Member by the OSA Board of Directors.
  • OSA celebrated its 95th anniversary.
  • The Optical Materials Express journal launched.
  • OSA Membership and Student Chapters exceeded 17,000 and 250 respectively.
  • The Boris P. Stoicheff Memorial Scholarship was established; the Leadership Award was named the Robert E. Hopkins Award.
  • OSA launched Optics & Photonics CONNECT, a program providing free access to additional online content, networking opportunities, and other resources.
  • OSA published six of the top ten optics journals as measured by 2010 citations and Eigenfactor (reported in 2011).