OSA | Living History

Herwig Kogelnik

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OSA Awards & Distinctions



1989 OSA President and Honorary Member Herwig Kogelnik was born in Graz, Austria, on 2 June 1932. His groundbreaking work in photonics and optical communications has revolutionized modern lightwave communications technology. He is also credited with helping to revolutionize global information movement and management.

In 1955 Kogelnik received his Dipl. Ing. degree from the Technische Hochschule Wien, Vienna, Austria. Three years later he earned a doctorate from the Technische Hochschule. In 1960, he received a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

Kogelnik joined Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey, in 1961 where he served as director of both the Electronics Research Laboratory and the Photonics Research Laboratory. His research focused on optics, electronics, and communications, including work on holography, photonics, laser resonators, and Gaussian beams.

Along with C.V. Shank, Kogelnik pioneered the distributed-feedback laser in 1971. Additionally, his leadership in the development of practical wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) led to a groundbreaking dense WDM system, further revolutionizing lightwave communications by expanding capacity and lowering costs.

In the area of photonic switching, Kogelnik's research with R.V Schmidt led to the development of the reversal directional coupler wavelength switch, a mainstay of experimental photonic switching systems, and a necessary component in ultra high-speed optical networks. Under his leadership, the Photonics Research Laboratory developed many other fundamental components of optical communications, including high-speed avalanche photodiodes, tunable semiconductor lasers, photonic integrated circuits, and high-capacity amplified transmission systems.

During his career Kogelnik earned 34 patents and authored 85 articles. He is a fellow of both IEEE and OSA, which he served as vice president in 1987 and president in 1989. He is also an honorary fellow of St. Peter's College at Oxford University.

Kogelnik has received numerous awards, including OSA’s Frederic Ives Medal "for pioneering contributions to holography, lasers, and integrated optics."  He's also been awarded the IEEE David Sarnoff Award, the Joseph Johann Ritter von Prechtl Medal from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria, and the IEEE Lasers and Electro Optics Society Quantum Electronics Award. He received the IEEE Medal of Honor for fundamental contributions to the science and technology of lasers and optoelectronics, and for leadership in research and development of photonics and lightwave communications systems. He was a 2006 recipient of the National Medal of Technology for his pioneering contributions and leadership in the development of laser, optoelectronics, integrated optics and lightwave communications technology that have been instrumental in driving the growth of the fiber optic communications systems for our nation's infrastructure.  He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. National Academy of Science.

Kogelnik continues to be involved with OSA, sitting on the Presidential Advisory Committee, which he chaired from 1990-2011.  

Lasers and optical communications are such a totally new technology with so many dimensions to their application. And there is continuing growth of their potential.
Herwig Kogelnik, OPN Nov 2007

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Document Created: 12 Jun 2013
Last Updated: 2 Jul 2019