Hans Coufal

In Memoriam: Hans Coufal

September 19, 2006

OSA Mourns the Loss of Hans Coufal

Hans Coufal, a well known member of the scientific community, died on September 19, 2006 at the age of 61 in Palo Alto, Ca.

Coufal worked most recently as Manager, Science and Technology, at IBM Almaden Research Center, where he oversaw prominent research areas, including quantum information, nanotechnology, supercomputer simulations and holographic data storage.

Bert Hesselink, of Stanford University, worked with Coufal on the $53 million DARPA/Industry/University/NSIC PRISM and HDSS consortia to develop digital holographic data storage systems and media. Hesselink remembers Coufal as a very intense and driven person in both his personal life and scientific career. “He was energetic, philosophical and competitive, with a keen desire and insight to lead the way to new applications of fascinating technologies ranging from data storage to more recently nanotechnology,” recalls Hesselink. An avid train enthusiast, Coufal once took an overnight train from San Francisco to Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, to attend an optical data storage meeting, just for the pleasure of riding the train. “He certainly will be missed in the community and by many of his friends,” stated Hesselink.

Coufal earned his Ph.D. in applied physics from the Technical University of Munich. After serving as junior faculty at the same university and Free University in Berlin, he spent a sabbatical at IBM Research. He eventually returned to IBM as a visiting scientist and, in 1981, became a research staff member, pursuing research in laser-induced, sonar-acoustic transients. Former colleagues recall that through his contacts in Germany, Coufal attracted many excellent postdocs and researchers who spent time at IBM Almaden working on data storage and materials problems, among other topics.

Coufal was a member of the editorial board of Applied Physics, a Fellow of OSA and of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). He authored or co-authored more than 150 publications, edited 10 books and held 14 patents.