Roy J. Glauber, 1925-2018

In Memoriam: Roy J. Glauber, 1925-2018

December 26, 2018

Roy J. Glauber, Nobel Laureate and OSA Honorary Member, has passed away at the age of 93.  Glauber was awarded one-half of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.”  The other half of the prize was presented to John L. Hall and Theodore W. Hänsch.  Glauber’s prize winning work centered on his development of a theory that advanced the understanding of light by describing the behavior of light particles, known as light quanta or photons. Presented in the early 1960s, the theory merged the field of optics with quantum physics, which is the study of the behavior of matter on the atomic and subatomic scales, and formed the basis for the development of quantum optics.

Glauber received a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1949. After graduation, he did research at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., and at the California Institute of Technology. In 1952, he returned to Harvard. Glauber’s research helped clarify how light could have both wave and particle characteristics and explained the fundamental differences between the light emitted by hot objects, such as electric light bulbs, and the light emitted by lasers. Practical applications of Glauber’s work included the development of highly secure codes in the field known as quantum cryptography. His research played a central role in developing a new generation of computers, known as quantum computers, which would be extraordinarily fast and powerful and use quantum-mechanical phenomena to process data as qubits, or quantum bits, of information. Glauber was the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University and Adjunct Professor of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona.

In addition to the 2005 Nobel Prize, Glauber received many honors for his research, including the Albert A. Michelson Medal (1985) from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Max Born Award (1985) from The Optical Society, the Dannie Heineman Prize (1996) for Mathematical Physics from the American Physical Society, and the 2008 'Medalla de Oro del CSIC' ('CSIC's Gold Medal'). He was elected an OSA Fellow in 1985 and became an OSA Honorary Member in 2008 for pioneering work on quantum optics and coherent states. In 1997, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.

Roy Glauber will be dearly missed by his colleagues, students and many collaborators within the scientific community. OSA and the scientific community mourns the loss of Roy Glauber.


The OSA community mourns the passing of Nobel Laureate Roy Glauber and OSA leaders provided the following remembrances.

It's very sad news, the passing of an icon, and hard to register. Shirley and I immediately thought of the lively conversation we had sitting at dinner with him in the Eastman House in Rochester a year ago.  As Dr. Quantum Optics, Roy Glauber became the signifier for an entire field. It has grown enormously over decades in size and wide-spreading importance without losing contact with the fundamentals characteristic of its origin. Of these Roy was a principal architect and builder as well as a passionate long-term guardian. We will all miss him.

Joseph H. Eberly
2007 OSA President
Andrew Carnegie Professor of Physics
Professor of Optics
The Institute of Optics
University of Rochester


I am so sorry to hear this: Roy was a great man who transformed our subject. Possibly the last link with the Manhattan Project (he was in the theory group at Los Alamos as a very young man, with Feynman, Peierls and Bethe). And a great raconteur, who livened up so many conferences and advisory boards (especially in Erlangen where he kept us spellbound with his stories and anecdotes). Who can forget his role as “Keeper of the Broom” at the Ignobels each year. What a wonderful life and a terrific character! 

Sir Peter Knight FRS 
2004 OSA President
The Kavli Royal Society International Centre 
And Senior Research Investigator
Blackett Lab, Imperial College London
Chair of the Quantum Metrology Institute, National Physical Laboratory


Roy spent a lot of time at OSC and was a great asset for us.

Richard C. Powell
2001 OSA President
Emeritus Vice President for Research and Professor
University of Arizona


So very sorry to hear the news.  It is a loss for our community. 

Susan Houde-Walter
2005 OSA President
CEO and Cofounder


Sad news, indeed.  His pioneering work set the stage for enormous advancements.

Ursula Gibson
2019 OSA President
Department of Physics
Norwegian University of Science and Technology


This news is very sad. I had a nice friendship with Roy, which actually stretches back to my days as a Harvard undergrad, but extends to many coversations at conferences over the years. I'll miss him.

Philip H. Bucksbaum
2014 OSA President
Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor of Photon Science, Applied Physics, and Physics
Stanford University