Stephen F. Jacobs, 1928-2019

In Memoriam: Stephen F. Jacobs, 1928-2019

February 24, 2019

Stephen F. Jacobs, OSA Fellow and OSA Emeritus member, passed away on 24 February 2019 at the age of 90. Jacobs was a Professor Emeritus of Optical Sciences at the College of Optical Sciences, The University of Arizona. Jacobs joined OSA in 1956 and he was elected an OSA Fellow in 1976.  He made significant contributions to the Society through his volunteer service on programmatic committees, award selection committees, and the advisory boards of several publications. 

Jacobs was originally from New York City, NY, USA, and received a BS degree in Physics from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio and a PhD in Physics from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Jacobs would go onto be an optical physicist at Perkin-Elmer in Norwalk, Connecticut, and then a spectroscopist at the Technical Research Group (TRG).

In 1965, Jacobs was recruited by the Director of the Optical Sciences Center (OSC) Aden Meinel and began a career at OSC that had a lasting impact not only at the College of Optical Sciences, but also within the global optics community.  Jacobs, in collaboration with Marlan Scully from MIT, would become known as the organizers of summer schools that would become the advanced Physics of Quantum Electronics (PQE) workshops. During his tenure at OSC, successful collaborative projects included, determining quartz homogeneity for the Gravity Probe B relativity experiment; identifying the most homogeneous glass for spin casting in consultation with Roger Angel, Steward Observatory Mirror Lab; and assisting NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the development of ultra-stable Invar 36 for the Cassini spacecraft.

Jacobs was active in professional organizations, serving as the President of the Tucson Section and on many OSA committees including the Fellows Members Committee, Max Born Selection Committee and the Optics and Photonics News Editorial Advisory Committee.  In addition to these roles, Jacobs was a member of Editorial Board and the Patents Panel for Applied Optics. While Jacobs’ scientific and professional accomplishments were significant, it was his passion for teaching and for sharing the excitement of scientific discoveries that influenced generations of scientists.

During his retirement, Jacobs was active in many ways including various outdoor adventures with his family, gardening and raising desert flora, and enjoying a good swim, tennis match or session with his trainer. Jacobs was also known for his interest in art and photography and for sharing the beauty of optics with the Tucson community. Jacobs is survived by his wife, Kathy, his three children, six grandchildren, and his sister. Jacobs will be remembered as a kind, gracious and thoughtful friend and colleague to many at OSC and the community. 

Steve Jacobs will be dearly missed by his family and colleagues. OSA and the scientific community mourns the loss of Stephen F. Jacobs.

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