Cyrus D. Cantrell III

In Memoriam: Cyrus D. Cantrell III

June 19, 2013

In Memoriam:  Cyrus D. Cantrell III, 1940-2013

Cyrus CantrellCyrus Duncan “Cy” Cantrell III, an OSA Fellow who helped establish, build and mentor the engineering and computer programs at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), died on 19 June 2013 due to complications from cancer. He was 72.

A physics and electrical engineering professor at UTD for 33 years, Cantrell helped establish the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, or ECS, by recruiting new professors.  In 2002, he became an associate dean of academic affairs within the school and is widely regarded by faculty and staff as having been a key force in the expansion of ECS.

Cantrell was born in Bartlesville, Okla., where his father was an engineer and petroleum geologist. Motivated in part by Russia’s 1957 Sputnik launch, Cantrell received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University in 1962.  He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics from Princeton University, in 1964 and 1968 respectively.

Cantrell started doing research as a graduate student at Princeton.  In 1967 he was hired at Swarthmore College, where he became an associate professor of physics with tenure.  In 1973, he joined the staff of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where he conducted research on laser fusion and laser isotope separation.  In 1980, he served as visiting professor at the Université Paris-Nord and then joined the faculty at UT-Dallas.

Cantrell made contributions to the fields of quantum electronics, applied optics and photonics.  His dual interests in computation and mathematics led to his publication of a textbook, Modern Mathematical Methods in Physics and Engineering.  He enjoyed mentoring younger faculty members and teaching both undergraduate and graduate students.  He supervised 32 doctorates during his UTD career.
An OSA member since 1974, Cantrell was named an OSA Fellow in 1978.  He was also a Life Fellow of IEEE and the American Physical Society.  In 1980 he received IEEE Third Millennium Medal, an award given for outstanding contributions in a person's area of activity.  He held four technical patents, and he also served as an Expert Witness on legal cases related to intellectual property and optical issues.

Cantrell filled his free time with a myriad of personal interests.  His hobbies included computers, backpacking, photography, cooking, languages, history, and traveling.

Cantrell is survived by his wife of 40 years, Mary Lynn Marple, and a daughter.

Memorials may be made to the Sarah Montgomery Marple-Cantrell Memorial Scholarship for Women Engineers at UT-Dallas, named for his daughter who died in 2003.  If you would like to make a memorial donation to an OSA Foundation fund or endowment in honor of Cyrus D. Cantrell, please visit