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In Memoriam: Brian John Thompson, 1933 - 2024

Jan 27, 2024

BrianThompson_(1).jpgBrian J. Thompson, Optica Fellow and society volunteer, passed away on 27 January 2024 at the age of 91. He was a leading researcher in coherent optics, holography, phase microscopy, and image processing. Thompson was a longtime leader at the University of Rochester and was a dean emeritus and professor emeritus of optics.

Thompson was born in Preston, England. In the 1950s, he earned his Bachelor of Science and PhD degrees from the University of Manchester. In 1963, he went to work in industry and higher education in the United States.

In 1968, Thompson became the director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester until 1975. From 1975 to 1984, he served as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, followed by the position of Provost until his retirement in 1994. Throughout his time at the university, Thompson studied partially coherent light and its effects. He developed the first direct application of holography, known as dynamic particle size analysis, and revolutionized various fields of study.

Thompson was recognized for his achievements and was named a Fellow of Optica (formerly the Optical Society) in 1966. Thompson was also an active volunteer. He served on Optica’s Board of Directors in 1980 and was Chair of the Advisory Committee International Commission for Optics (ICO) from 1995 through 1996 and Past Chair in 1997.

Thompson authored over 180 scientific and technical papers on optics. In 1989, he co-wrote “The New Physical Optics Notebook: Tutorials in Fourier Optics,” which has been translated into Russian, Polish, and Chinese. The University of Rochester honored Thompson and established the Brian J. Thompson Professorship in Optical Engineering in 2009. Endowed by John Bruning, former CEO of Corning Tropel Corporation, the professorship honors his legacy.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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