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In Memoriam: Richard Magee Osgood Jr., 1943-2023

Oct 20, 2023

Richard M. Osgood Jr., Optica Fellow, volunteer and awardee of the R. W. Wood Prize, passed away on 20 October 2023. He was most known for his work in condensed matter and chemical physics of surfaces, laser technology, and nano-optics and serving in the United States Air Force. 

Osgood was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on 28 December 1943. He attended Winchester High School, where he was active in the Boy Scouts and achieved Eagle Scout and the Order of Arrow. He graduated high school in 1961 and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduating in 1965, Osgood chose to serve in the Air Force and relocated to Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1966, he married Alice and raised three children: Richard III, Nathaniel, and Jennifer.

Osgood worked at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and studied at the Ohio State University, where he earned his master’s degree in Physics. At the Air Force Base, Osgood co-invented the high-power carbon monoxide laser. Osgood went on to apply to PhD programs and was awarded a full Hertz scholarship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There, under the guidance of Professor Ali Javan, he contributed to groundbreaking advances in laser science. Osgood received his PhD in the spring of 1973 and subsequently worked for MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, where he joined the Quantum Electronics Group. He co-created the field of laser-induced photochemical deposition and reactions on surfaces, as well as a new solid-state laser in the Quantum Electronics Group. He was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for this and other surface chemistry research.

In 1981, Osgood accepted a tenured professorship at Columbia University and relocated his family to New York. In 1988, he earned distinction for his pioneering work in lasers and microsystem processing methods and was appointed a Higgins Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. At Columbia, he served as a co-founder of the Columbia Microelectronics Sciences Laboratories (MSL). He also held directorial or co-directorial positions at MSL, the Columbia Radiation Laboratory (CRL), and the Center for Integrated Science and Engineering. In 2000, Osgood became an Associate Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL).

Osgood received the R. W. Wood Prize from Optica (formerly The Optical Society) in 1991 for “the invention of laser photochemical deposition and the application of laser-induced photochemical reactions to materials processing.” The following year, Optica named him a Fellow. In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Osgood was an active volunteer with the society from 1995 through 2021. He served on a few award committees, including the R. W. Wood Prize Committee, the New Focus/Bookham Student Award Committee, and the Nick Holonyak Jr. Award Committee, serving as Chair in 2006. In addition, he also served on the Integrated Photonics Research (IPR) Program Committee and CLEO’s Science and Innovation (S&I) Committee on Optical Materials, Fabrication & Characterization.

Osgood delivered plenary talks at CLEO, the Japanese Optical Association, and published 434 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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