Boris Zeldovich, 1944-2018

In Memoriam: Boris Zeldovich, 1944-2018

December 16, 2018

boris zeldovich

Boris Zeldovich, OSA Fellow and 1997 Max Born Award recipient, passed away at the age of 74. Zeldovich was known for his significant contributions to the nonlinear optics community, specifically in the areas of phase conjugation and giant nonlinearities in liquid crystals. His pioneering work has had a lasting impact in the field and his passion for teaching has inspired students at UCF CREOL for more than two decades. 

Zeldovich received his Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences degree from the Lebedev Physics Institute in Moscow, Russia, and came from a renowned family of physics scholars. His father, Yakov Borisovich Zeldovich, was known for his work on the thermodynamics of black holes and the physics of thermonuclear phenomena. Zeldovich had 35 relatives with doctorate degrees in physics. Zeldovich joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida in 1994 and was an Emeritus Professor of Optics and Photonics and Physics at the time of his death.

As a result of his research, Zeldovich was able to predict and discover, experimentally, the giant optical nonlinearity of liquid crystals, which is noted to be 1010 times stronger than for usual media. Zeldovich is the co-discoverer of optical phase conjugation. His most recent work was focused on pursuing both theoretical and experimental research programs on wave propagation in multimode optical waveguides and irregularly inhomogeneous media using the methods of nonlinear optics and dynamic holography for the processing of images transmitted through those media. Zeldovich was also co-founder of BEAM, Inc., a startup company through CREOL, and contributed the mathematical models for the startup, OptiGrate. 

Zeldovich received numerous awards during his career including the USSR State Prize (1983), status as an elected member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1987), and the OSA Max Born Award (1997). In 1998, Zeldovich was elected an OSA Fellow for his seminal contributions to discovery and theoretical understanding of optical phase conjugation, giant nonlinearity of liquid crystals, spin-orbit interaction of photons, and up/down asymmetry of light polarization. He was a member of OSA for more than 25 years, served as a committee volunteer, and was a long-time attendee of the Frontiers in Optics Conference. 

In addition to his significant scientific contributions, Zeldovich was known for his love of teaching and exposing students, from young children to college age, to mathematics and physics. He volunteered to teach mathematics to young children and grandchildren of CREOL faculty and conducted self-funded weekend electronics workshops for middle school students, suppling them with electronic parts and devices. Colleagues will miss Zeldovich’ s deep understanding of physics, kindness, humor, and booming cheerfulness, which added an important dimension to CREOL. 

Boris Zeldovich will be dearly missed by his family and colleagues. OSA and the scientific community mourns the loss of Boris Zeldovich.

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