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In Memoriam: James T. Schwiegerling, 1968 - 2023

Apr 05, 2023

James T. Schwiegerling, Optica Senior Member and Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona passed away on 5 April 2023. Schwiegerling’s research focused on ophthalmology and lens design. He was most known for developing trifocal intraocular lenses, allowing for mid-range vision and almost eliminating the need for glasses or contacts.

Schwiegerling was born on 20 August 1968 in Amityville, New York. He received his Bachelor’s and Master of Science in Optics from the University of Rochester in 1990 and 1991, respectively. After his studies in New York, he pursued a PhD at the University of Arizona (UA). While studying in Rochester, he spent his summers interning at Eastman Kodak Company, researching light-emitting diodes, liquid crystal light valves, and the heating effects of CO2 and Nd: YAG lasers on various film bases. Eastman Kodak awarded him a scholarship from 1987 until 1990, followed by a fellowship from 1992 through 1995. During his fellowship, he researched at the Optical Sciences Center at UA, where he designed a preliminary lens system for implantable intraocular lenses.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Arizona, he remained an Assistant Research Scientist and studied corneal topographic analysis, radial keratotomy, and optical system design and testing. In 1998, UA hired him as an Associate Professor within the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science.

Schwiegerling received various awards and grants for his work in ophthalmology. In addition to receiving unrestricted grants from the Research to Prevent Blindness, the organization awarded him the Innovative Ophthalmic Research and Career Development awards. In 2012, the University of Arizona recognized him for Leading Edge Research. In 2017, he was elected a Senior Member of Optica (formerly OSA) and, in the following year, a Fellow for his outstanding contributions to the ophthalmic and visual optics field and for excellence in and dedication to and dedication to optics education. In 2020, UA announced Schwiegerling as the first Robert R. Shannon Endowed Chair for the Optical Sciences. He received the Southern Arizona Innovation Leader of the Year and Arizona’s Innovator of the Year for Academia the following year.

Apart from his professional career, Schwiegerling participated in Optica technical groups, including Optical Fabrication and Testing (FM-FDI), Vision (VV-VC), Imaging Optical Design (FD-FDI), Holography and Diffractive Optics (FH-FDI), and was Chair of the Applications of Visual Science (VA) from 2003 through 2005. In addition, he was a member of the Frontier in Optics Program Committee from 2003-2005, the David Richardson Medal Committee from 2012 through 2013, and the Optical Fabrication and Testing Program Committee from 2013 through 2014. In 2019 he was a Traveling Lecturer and spoke with members of the IOSA Student Chapter CSIC in Madrid, Spain.

Schwiegerling published 117 archival journal and proceedings papers. Books in his name include Field Guide to Visual and Ophthalmic Optics (2004), Molded Optics: Design and Manufacture (2011), and Optical Specification, Fabrication, and Testing (2014). He holds nine US patents and has mentored and supervised degrees for 40 masters and 19 PhD students, including those currently studying.

Optica, his former students, and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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