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In Memoriam: Linn F. Mollenauer, 1937 - 2021

Jul 28, 2021

Linn F. Mollenauer, Optica Fellow (1981) and recipient of the R. W. Wood Prize (1982) and Charles Hard Townes Medal (1997), passed away on 28 July 2021 at the age of 84. He was most known for his work on quantum optics, including the study of solitons in fiber optics.

Mollenauer earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cornell University and PhD in physics from Stanford. He then went on to teach Physics at the University of California (UC) Berkeley for seven years. In 1972, he moved his family to New Jersey where he took a position at Bell Labs to focus on the study of solitons in optical fiber pulse propagation and their application to ultra-long-distance transmission. In 1988, he demonstrated soliton transmission through 4000 kilometers of single-mode fiber. By 1991, he transmitted solitons at two wavelengths through 9000 kilometers of fiber. By 1993, Mollenauer could send 10 billion bits through 20,000 kilometers of fibers using a simpler soliton system. He was elected a Fellow of Bell Labs in 2001. Mollenauer was recognized by many organizations for his achievements in optical communications and received awards from the American Physical Society (APS), the American Association for the Advance of Science (AAAS), IEEE, the National Academy of Engineering, and The Franklin Institute. Mollenauer was awarded the prestigious Rank Prize in optoelectronics in 1991.

At Optica, Mollenauer dedicated his time as an Optics Letters editor and also reviewed papers for several of the Frontiers in Optics (FiO) Technical Program Subcommittees from 1990 – 1992. He was also a member of the R.W. Wood Prize Committee in 1992 and then chaired the committee in 1993. In 2004, Mollenauer assisted with the review of contributed talks for CLEO’s Science and Innovation (S&I) 12: Lightwave Communications and Optical Networks committee.

Outside of optics, Mollenauer was an environmentalist and a supporter of the arts, his favorites being chamber music and poetry. He enjoyed spending time with his family, working on home-improvement projects, and traveling.

He is survived by his sons David and James, his grandchildren Andrew, Caroline, and William, and his sisters Alice and Mary Jo.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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