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In Memoriam: Joseph Izatt, 1962-2024

Apr 07, 2024

Joseph Izatt, Optica Fellow, Edwin H. Land Medal recipient, and long-time Optica volunteer, passed away on 7 April 2024. Izatt was the Michael J. Fitzpatrick Professor of Engineering and chair of Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), Duke University, USA. Izatt was a volunteer leader who helped shape and strengthen Optica’s conferences, publications, and overall strategy. He served on many committees and councils, including the Board of Editors, Publications Council, Board of Directors, and the Strategic Planning Council. He was the founding Editor of Biomedical Optics Express and Editor of Applied Optics and the Journal of the Optica Society of America A (JOSA A).

In recognition of his service, Izatt received the 2022 Stephen D. Fantone Distinguished Service Award “for over 25 years of outstanding service to the optics community and Optica in areas as diverse as publications, conferences, strategic planning, and the Optica Board of Directors.”  He was also recognized as an Optica Fellow in 2009 and as the 2021 recipient of the Edwin H. Land Medal “for foundational contributions to the invention, development, and commercialization of optical coherence-based technologies for the in vivo biomedical imaging, and for the education and mentoring of distinguished scientists and engineers.”

Izatt received his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he also completed postdoctoral work. Prior to joining Duke, he held positions at University Hospitals of Cleveland, and Case Western Reserve University. He was co-founder of Bioptigen.  Izatt was a pioneer in biomedical imaging, a successful entrepreneur, and a dedicated teacher.  Izatt published over 200 technical papers and more than 350 contributed conference presentations and held over 75 US patents. In addition to being an Optica Fellow, Izatt was a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and SPIE.

During his career, Izatt made fundamental contributions to many coherence-based optical imaging technologies, especially optical coherence tomography (OCT). His accomplishments included playing an integral role in the initial development of retinal OCT, anterior segment OCT, endoscopic OCT, OCT image processing and segmentation, OCT imaging of neonates and children, intrasurgical OCT, and OCT-guided robotic ophthalmic surgery. His group pioneered the combination of OCT and scanning laser ophthalmoscopy in a compact hand-held format, demonstrating the first in vivo imaging of photoreceptors in neonatal infant eyes.

Izatt was dedicated to his students and served as a mentor to many engineers, scientists, and clinicians in academia and industry. He will be dearly missed by his friends and colleagues. Joe Izatt’s passing is a significant loss for Optica and the scientific community.  His legacy of dedication, expertise, and service will continue to inspire and influence generations of scientists and engineers to come.

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


The Optica community mourns the passing of long-time volunteer Joseph Izatt. Members have provided the following remembrances. If you wish to add a remembrance, please contact

“Very sorry to hear this sad news. Joe was a wonderful colleague and great listener and facilitator - he really made a difference to Optica, and I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him.”

Ian Walmsley
2018 Optica President
Provost, Imperial College London

“Unbelievable! What a sad news. He was much too young for this to happen! I will miss him. He was very supportive of me which I appreciated very much!  Optica is losing an active member who dedicated himself to our community way more than the average!  This makes me think about life.”

Gerd Leuchs
2024 Optica President
Max Planck Institute

“I am shocked to read this and I feel terribly sad. Joe's passing is great loss for all.
Joe was a wonderful person and I truly enjoyed our conversations and laughs on the Strategic Planning Council. I will miss him.”

Jens Biegert
2024 Meetings Council Chair
ICFO – Institute of Photonic Sciences

“I am shocked and saddened by the news.  Joe was a delightful colleague and fellow pilot.  I thought I would share a fun picture with the group at Sun n Fun 2 yrs ago.  I think it is obvious who the non Floridian is in the picture.  Joe and I had planned to meet up this week at Sun n Fun. He will be missed. My heart goes out to his family."

Gisele Bennett
2024 Optica Vice President

“This is awful news. I am so sorry for Joe's family and this terrible loss.  Words really aren't useful in times like this.”

George Bayz
Optica Treasurer
Oakshire Partners

“I’m very sorry to hear the news.  I remember Joe well from Optica (or then OSA) activities and always found him a wonderful person to work with. “

Tony F Heinz
2012 Optica President
Professor of Applied Physics and Photon Science, Stanford University

“Joe Izatt was a thoughtful and gracious man and I saw his amazing impact on Optica as an organization and as editor for several of its journals. He was a stalwart leader for the optics and photonics community and he will be greatly missed. Martijn joins me in sending our condolences to his family and friends for their great loss.”

Judith Dawes
2022-2024 Optica Director at Large
Macquarie University


“It’s so sad. He had full of energy vividly in my memory with his enthusiasm and with even though I had the opportunity to meet him only a few times at SPC and Board meetings. He will certainly be missed!”

Simin Cai
2023-2025 Optica Foundation Board Member
Go! Foton

“As expressed by the many expressions of sympathy on the Optica website, I also am shocked reading this. Joe Izatt was a leader with a vision, dedicated to his commitments, and a kind and thoughtful person. I will miss him at future Optica events.”

Pierre Chavel
2024-2026 Public Affairs Council member
Institut d’Optique

“I was absolutely shocked when I received the terrible news. I vividly remember when I met Joe for the first time almost exactly 30 years ago, in the early days of OCT. He was a postdoc at Jim Fujimoto's lab and showed me around the lab and its vicinity in Boston. Since then, I have met him many times at various conferences and meetings and had multiple discussions with him on science and publishing. Over the many years, he has become a deeply respected colleague and friend.

This is a tragic loss for his family, friends, and our entire community. We will truly miss him.”

Christoph Hitzenberger
2023-2024 Chair, Board of Editors
Medizinische Universität Wien

“It was shocking and painful to hear of losing Joe Izatt – a truly kind, generous, knowledgeable, and remarkably helpful Optica volunteer.  He was the ‘go to’ person for anything related to bio.  He personally helped me when we were looking to hire biophotonics people.  He will truly be missed by us all.”

Eric W. Van Stryland
2006 Optica President
CREOL, The College of Optics & Photonics





Awards & Distinctions

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