OSA Establishes Emmett N. Leith Award in Honor of Late Optical Physicist

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 – The Optical Society of America (OSA) has established a new award in honor of the late optical physicist Emmett N. Leith.  Leith was a world-renowned scientist in holography and optical information processing, and this award recognizes significant contributions to these research areas.  The establishment of the award was officially announced Monday, Oct. 9 at the Plenary and Awards Ceremony during Frontiers in Optics, OSA’s annual meeting in Rochester, N.Y. 

The award was established to honor Professor Leith, a pioneer of coherent optics in radar systems, who is credited, along with his colleague Juris Upatnieks, with developing modern holography in the early 1960s.  The holographic techniques developed by Leith and Upatnieks allowed the images of 3-D real world objects to be captured on photographic film.   His research created a worldwide interest in holography at the time.  For many years Leith was associated with the University of Michigan’s Willow Run Labs and the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), which is now part of General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. Leith died Dec. 23, 2005 after a 52-year career at the University of Michigan.

“I am one of the many researchers worldwide whose professional careers were made possible by the path-breaking discoveries by Emmett,” says Ravi Athale, co-chair of the Emmett N. Leith Medal Fundraising Committee.  “It is indeed an honor to be a part of the committee that worked to establish this important award.  Emmett was enormously respected among members of the optics community and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor his legacy.”

Nominations for future award recipients will be reviewed by the six-member Emmett N. Leith Medal Committee.  In assessing the significance of the nominees’ contributions, consideration will be given to theoretical and conceptual breakthroughs as well as practical applications.  Optical information processing is broadly defined to include sensing and analog signal processing, as well as computing (classical and quantum) and optical storage.  The award, which will be given annually and includes a medal and cash prize, is open to applicants worldwide and at any career level.  The first Leith award will be presented at Frontiers in Optics in October 2008.

This award is endowed through the OSA Foundation by contributions from General Dynamics and individual contributors, including Joseph Goodman and Alexander Sawchuk.

About OSA
Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2006, the Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together an international network of the industry’s preeminent optics and photonics scientists, engineers, educators, technicians and business leaders. Representing more than 14,000 members from more than 80 different countries, OSA promotes the worldwide generation, application and dissemination of optics and photonics knowledge through its meetings, events and journals. Since its founding in 1916, OSA member benefits, programming, publications, products and services have set the industry's standard of excellence. Additional information on OSA is available on the Society’s Web site at www.osa.org.

About the OSA Foundation
The OSA Foundation was established in 2002 to support philanthropic activities that help further the Optical Society of America’s mission by concentrating its efforts on programs that advance youth science education, support optics and photonics in developing nations, provide education and resources to underserved populations and support OSA’s Awards and Honors program. The grants funded by the OSA Foundation are made possible by the generous donations of its supporters as well as the dollar-for-dollar match by OSA. The Foundation is exempt from U.S. federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is a public charity.