OSA | Living History

Robert L. Byer

1994 OSA President Robert L. Byer is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the School of Humanities and Science in the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford University, USA. He has conducted research and taught classes in lasers and nonlinear optics there since 1969. He has made major contributions to laser science and technology including the demonstration of the first tunable visible parametric oscillator, the development of the Q-switched unstable resonator Nd:YAG laser, remote sensing using tunable infrared sources, and precision spectroscopy using Coherent Anti Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS). Byer’s ongoing research includes development of nonlinear optical materials and laser diode pumped solid-state laser sources for applications to gravitational wave detection and to laser particle acceleration.

Byer has served as vice provost and dean of research at Stanford as well as chair of the Department of Applied Physics, director of the Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory, and Director of the Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory. He is a founding member of the California Council on Science and Technology and served as chair from 1995-1999. He has been a member of the National Ignition Facility since 2000 and was a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board from 2002-2006. In 2012, Byer served as President of the American Physical Society and was a Charter Fellow, National Academy of Inventors.

Byer has published more than 500 papers and holds 50 patents in the fields of lasers and nonlinear optics. For his work, Byer has received numerous awards including the IEEE/LEOS Quantum Electronics Award and OSA’s Ives Medal, the society’s highest honor for pioneering contributions to optical science and the commercial development of optical technologies and for wide-ranging leadership activities within the optics community. He has also received OSA’s R. W. Wood Prize, LIA’s Schawlow Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, OSA’s Adolph Lomb Medal, and the IEEE Photonics Award.

He has actively participated in many professional organizations including OSA, AIP, and IEEE/LEOS where he served as president. He is a Fellow of OSA, IEEE, APS, AAAS, and LEOS and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Science.

Byer was an instrumental co-chair of OSA's Centennial Advisory Committee which was charged with planning OSA's 100th Anniversary in 2016.

OSA is a great society to be a part of.  It made life in optics a lot more interesting and more fun than it would've been otherwise because those of us who organize meetings and got together with colleagues could do so in the very far corners of this world.  And in my case, that meant from Siberia to Hawaii to China to Australia, so they're very far-flung parts of the world, all of which are part of the optics community on a global scale.

Robert Byer, 2008 Historical Interview


Document Created: 12 Jun 2013
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2019