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In Memoriam: Murty V. Mantravadi, 1929 - 2024

Apr 24, 2024

Murty V. Mantravadi, Optica Fellow and educator, passed away on 24 April 2024 at the age of 94. He was most known for his research in optical testing, interferometry, diffraction, spectrometers, and optical devices. Most notably, he originated the shear plate testing method that would check for light wave distortion and make parallel or align the light rays of a laser beam.

Mantravadi was born in India in 1929. He received his Bachelor of Science in 1949 from Andhra Christian College in Guntur, India, and a diploma in Instrument Technology from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1952. Mantravadi worked as a lecturer at the Madras Institute until 1955. The following year, he enrolled at the University of Rochester, where he earned a PhD in Optical Engineering in 1959. Mantravadi taught courses and conducted research at the Institute of Optics until 1964. He then returned to India, where he was a Professor of Instrument Technology at the Madras Institute of Technology until 1966, followed by service as the head of the Optics Section of the Spectroscopy Division of Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in Bombay. The BARC is a multi-disciplinary Nuclear Research Centre governed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) of India. Mantravadi set up the Centre’s optics program and built various instruments for the DAE. In addition to working at BARC, Mantravadi served as a Visiting Professor at the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) in Puebla, and the Centro de Investigaciones en Optica (CIO) in León, Mexico. He collaborated with Daniel Malacara on the book “Optical Shop Testing,” published in 1992. Mantravadi also taught at the University of Rochester in 1973 for a short term. In 1982, he left India and returned to Mexico to be a full-time professor at CIO until 1984. Mantravadi also worked at Halo Technology in California as the Chief Scientist, taught physics at Alabama A&M University, and was a Research Engineer at Northrop Corporation. At Northrop, he collaborated with Tom Godfrey, Susan Raffensperger, David Cook, Walter Clark, Jim Hall, Dennis Rose, and Larry Scherr. In 1994, Mantravadi retired from Northrop as a Senior Engineer and Scientist.

Mantravadi published more than 120 papers in several scientific journals, including JOSA, Applied Optics, and SPIE Optical Engineering, among others. In the 1970s, Mantravadi collaborated on the OPTRICKS suitcase, a kit designed for teachers and young readers to conduct experiments and activities related to optical phenomena. In 2003, Mantravadi demonstrated the hands-on activity to the Optical Society of Southern California (OSSC) optics professionals. The kit was a huge success and was followed by an annual Optricks Day for young children at the local Discovery Science Center, led by Donn Silberman, who with his permission created the character 'Dr. Murty, The Wizard of Light.’

Mantravadi received numerous awards and recognitions for his achievements. In 1964, Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America) named him a Fellow. He was also a Fellow of SPIE, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Optical Society of India. In 2014, he received OSSC’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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