Peter Franken was born November 10, 1928 and received his B.S., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Columbia University. He then taught at Stanford University until 1956, when he moved to the University of Michigan Physics Department. In 1959 Franken was a visiting lecturer at Oxford and four years later received an appointment as a visiting professor at Yale.
Franken took a leave of absence from Michigan in 1967 to serve as deputy director and acting director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. In 1973 he was appointed director of the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona.
Franken is considered the father of nonlinear optics. In 1961 when Franken focused a high-powered ruby laser onto a quartz crystal the ultraviolet light that resulted was generated from a process known as second-harmonic generation. Nonlinear optics moved from a laboratory curiosity to a tool critical for biomedical applications, spectroscopy, and metrology.
An active OSA member, Franken was an OSA fellow and served as a member of its Board of Directors. He was a representative to the Joint Council of Quantum Electronics serving as chairman between 1969 and 1972. He was a member of the Lomb Medal Committee and served as chairman of the Committee on Society Objectives and Policy. He was a fellow of APS, SPIE, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a member of a number of other societies. He received the American Physical Society Prize and OSA’s R.W. Wood Prize.
Peter Franken died 11 March 1999.