OSA | Living History

Robert W. Terhune

Robert W. Terhune

OSA Fellow Robert W. Terhune was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1926. During World War II, at age 17, he enlisted in the Navy and qualified for advanced training in electronics and radar. He saw limited action in the Pacific on the destroyer U.S.S. Rowe.  In 1946, he moved to Dartmouth College for further training at the United States Naval Training School which was operated at College.   
The family moved to Michigan, where he studied optical physics at the University of Michigan, working with colleagues there and from other universities in studying the maser. He received his B.S degree in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1957 from the University of Michigan, and continued basic and applied research at the Ford Research Laboratory in Dearborn, where he stayed until retirement in 1988. His doctoral dissertation was titled, Electric Field Induced Vibration Rotation Spectra of Hydrogen and Deuterium. Through his work, he was able to demonstrate that ruby made an excellent MASER (microwave laser) and as a result, by 1960 many laboratories were experimenting with ruby masers. Hughes Laboratories was one of them and Ted Maiman used a ruby maser crystal to demonstrate the first ruby laser. 
In 1967, he was recipient of the University of Michigan Sesquicentennial Award given to the top 150 graduates in University of Michigan's 150-year history. He was awarded the Fredrick Ives Medal, the highest OSA award, in 1992, in “recognition of his many pioneering contributions to the field of nonlinear optics as well as his service to the optics community.”  In 1988, he took a position at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, USA. 

Terhune was the founding editor of both the OSA Optics Letters journal (1977) and the Journal of the OSA B: Optical Physics (1984) and served on the OSA Board of Directors from 1980-1986.  During his career, Robert also served on the Board of Editors (1977-1978), Adolph Lomb Medal Committee (1979-1981), Joint Council on Quantum Electronics (1981-1982), Charles Townes Award Committee (1981-1983), Nominating Committee (1983-1985), and Publications Council (1979-1990).

He died on 20 November 2014.

Robert William Terhune died on 20 November 2014, please see OSA's memorial entry.


Document Created: 24 Apr 2018
Last Updated: 22 Nov 2019