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In Memoriam: Adrian Korpel, 1932 - 2023

Oct 01, 2023

Adrianus (Adrian) Korpel, Optica Fellow and educator, passed away on 1 October 2023 in Oro Valley, Arizona, at the age of 91. He was most known for his contributions to the fields of acousto-optics and electrical engineering and for inventing Bragg Diffraction Imaging, an optical technique for sound field visualization.

Korpel was born on 18 February 1932, in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He grew up during World War II, including the bombing of Rotterdam when he was eight years old. He and his family managed to escape, and for two years, he was in foster care in Delft and Vriezenveen while his parents worked to reestablish their home and business.

Korpel studied at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1953 and then a master’s degree in 1955. He later married Abalone (Loni) Israel, and together, they immigrated to Melbourne, Australia, and had their firstborn son, Joost. From 1956 to 1960, he was with the Postmaster General and worked on television, microwaves, and parametric amplifiers. After five years in Australia, they moved to Chicago, where Korpel joined Zenith Radio in 1960.

At Zenith, Korpel became the head of the Light Modulation Group, investigating applications of lasers to television and demonstrating light-induced amplification and generation of sound through AO interactions. Korpel continued his studies and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Delft, where his thesis focused on visualizing a sound field with light. In 1975, he was promoted to Director of Research in engineering physics, where his efforts on video-disc technology contributed to international video-disc standards.

Korpel invented Bragg Diffraction Imaging during his tenure at Zenith, and this work resulted in 37 patents, playing a pivotal role in developing acousto-optic devices.

After Zenith, Korpel transitioned to academia, teaching at the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Many of his graduate students went on to excel in teaching, research, and industry. Aside from teaching and acousto-optics, Korpel found an interest in non-technical writing and produced a monthly column of essays (“At Random”) in the local newspaper. He also founded the Kalevala Writers Group, where members critiqued each other’s poetry and fiction monthly.

In 1990, Optica (formerly The Optical Society) awarded him a Fellow for his advancement of the science and practice of acousto-optics.

In addition to his professional achievements in optics and engineering, Korpel’s interests extended to writing and the arts. Korpel is survived by his nephew, his third wife, Ann, and step-children Amy Gants Brucker, the Rev. Laura Gants Guy, Kathleen Phelps, Carmen Maendel, and Jim Tran Phelps, as well as daughter-in-law Margaret Korpel. He is also the grandfather to ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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