Richard Fork

In Memoriam: Richard Fork, 1935-2018

May 16, 2018

Richard Fork, an OSA Fellow and former professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, passed away on 16 May 2018 at the age of 82.  Fork was known for his work in laser science and engineering, having received a patent for a space-based system that relies on lasers to generate and deliver energy to spacecraft. Fork was a tireless advocate of using lasers in space to deliver power for propulsion, mining, and an asteroid collision defense system for the Earth.
Fork received his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from Principia College in Elsah, IL, and his doctorate in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, in 1962.  Upon graduation, Fork worked at Bell Laboratories as a technical staff member in the Quantum Electronics Department.  During his twenty-eight years at Bell Laboratories, Fork worked on a number of projects, the most prominent being related to the mode-locked laser. He and co-authors Logan Hargrove and Martin Pollack wrote the original paper on demonstration of a mode-locked laser. In 1964, Fork also authored what would become the principal tool for real time high spectral resolution observation of laser system modes. Following his tenure at Bell Laboratories, Fork went on to serve as a professor of physics at Rensselaer Institute of Technology from 1990 to 1994, and joined the faculty of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in the fall of 1994.  Fork would be a professor at UAH for 23 years, until his retirement in 2017. 
Fork received several recognitions during his career including the Laser Focus Invention of the Year for the Colliding Pulse Laser (1983), Fellow status of the American Physical Society (1964), and UAH Outstanding Engineering Professor (1995).  In 1995, he received OSA Fellow status for his contributions to mode-locked lasers, stabilized lasers and the generation of ultrashort pulses.
Fork is survived by his wife, Donna Fork, and their many children and grandchildren. In recognition of Dr. Fork’s contributions, donations can be made to the Richard and Donna Fork Scholarship at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
OSA and the scientific community mourns the loss of Richard Fork.