OSA | Living History

Organizing a Topical Meeting

Karl A. Stetson

By the late 1970s, the OSA topical meetings had become quite well established, and I and a number of colleagues considered that it would be interesting to organize one devoted to holographic interferometry and speckle metrology.  I approached the OSA in 1979, and received a positive reaction with the suggestion of the Sea Crest Hotel in North Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA, as a possible venue.  I had experienced meetings where there was no place where the attendees could get together informally to discuss their work other than a noisy bar with obtrusive music, so I made a trip out there to view their facilities.  They seemed to be well set up for a meeting of this sort, so I decided to proceed.  I enlisted a number of well-known people in the field for the program committee, and the OSA solicited papers.  To help promote it, I wrote an article for the October issue of Optics News “Hologram Interferometry and Speckle Metrology: A Retrospective Look.”  All this stimulated a considerable response, including from researchers in China.  A half dozen or more from the PRC contacted me at United Technologies Research Center and arranged a visit to our laboratory the week before the meeting. 
One of the first problems I encountered was a letter from Rene Dändliker at Brown Boveri, in Switzerland that expressed annoyance over the order of the papers they had submitted.  He wanted their presentations reversed because he felt the one prepared for the other, but he had not indicated that with the submitted the papers.  My response was to send him a copy of the OSA program schedule for the OSA meeting in Dallas, TX, April 1965, where Robert Powell and I presented our first report of holographic interferometry, “Interferometric Vibration Analysis by Wave Front Reconstruction.”  It was presented in a session labeled Atomic Spectroscopy, and I had written Mary Warga at the time complaining about this.  Her response was that people would expect the paper in the session where it was scheduled, and to change that would create more problems than it would solve.  She also said that the session was supposed to have been “Interferometry and Atomic Spectroscopy,” not that that helped.  I told Rene that what Mary had told me then applied in his case as well, and when I met him at the topical meeting, he was highly amused by what I had sent him.
The meeting was scheduled for 2-4 June 1980, Tuesday through Thursday.  I drove out on Monday with Irene Harrison, who worked for me at UTRC, and met the staff from OSA.  Things started off pretty well, with the exception that Charles Vest and his family had to be moved to a different room because one of the attendees from China, in the room above theirs, had neglected to put the shower curtain inside the tub when taking a shower.  This resulted in water dripping down in to their room.  I had been concerned that there would not be very much going on in the evenings and that the hotel was not near any urban area, so we scheduled informal evening sessions with presentations by the members of the program committee with beer served at the back of the room.  People drifted in and out as the mood and their interests moved them.
I think the next unexpected event happened when an attendee from the Netherlands collapsed to the floor in the lobby.  He had suffered a collapsed lung, and the staff had managed to get him to a local hospital.  I arranged for another attendee from Holland to go and visit him to make sure there wasn’t anything he needed.  There were many other details with which I was preoccupied, but the major one I recall was that Wednesday night, someone broke into the lecture room and tried to steal the overhead projector.  He was chased across the roof of the motel and eventually dropped it over the edge into the sand.  It still operated, but the reflector/lens assembly had been loosened, and it was necessary to hold it up in order to get the viewgraphs to show properly.  I spent the sessions on Thursday doing this.  I actually did not have a paper scheduled in the program, but I presented in one of the evening sessions the work I had been doing with G. Smith at Pratt & Whitney on heterodyne speckle photography.  By Thursday evening, I was ready for a relaxing soak in the hotel’s Jacuzzi.  All in all, the meeting was consider a great success.
The week after the meeting, I was visited by a group from Germany and a group from Sweden and the Netherlands.  Both groups visited the laboratory across the Renschler field airport where G. Smith had set up the heterodyne speckle halo interferometer as well as my own laboratory at the research center.  I think this topical meeting was the only one the OSA ever sponsored devoted to this subject.