In Memoriam: George I. Stegeman, 1942-2015

May 02, 2015

George stegemanGeorge I. Stegeman, OSA Fellow and 2003 recipient of OSA R.W. Wood Prize, passed away on 2 May 2015. George was an icon in the area of nonlinear optics and published more than 700 papers during his career.He was Emeritus Professor of Optics, Physics & ECE at CREOL, College of Optics and Photonics, University of Central Florida (UCF). George was an active OSA volunteer having served on the OSA Board of Directors (1986-89) and as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Optical Society of America B in 2001.   
George Stegeman received his PhD from the University of Toronto and was the first recipient of the Cobb Family Chair in Optical Sciences and Engineering at the UCF. The principal interest of Dr. Stegeman's research group was the experimental study of nonlinear optics in waveguide structures, especially the properties of spatial solitons in various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Of particular interest are solitons in photonic crystals, in semiconductor optical amplifiers, in quasi-phase-matched doubling crystals and in the discrete systems afforded by coupled arrays of channel waveguides.
George received many awards and honors during his career including APS Fellow status, 2013 Honorary Doctorate from INRS University, Canada, and 2001 Teacher of the Year Award from the CREOL Association of Optics Students (CAOS).He also received the Herzberg Medal for achievement in Physics of the Canadian Association of Physicists and served on various Editorial Boards including Wave Electronics (1979-1983), Optics Communications (1986-2000), and Journal of Nonlinear Optics (1991).

The OSA community mourns the passing of Prof. Stegeman and OSA leaders provided the following remembrances.
This is really sad news. George Stegeman has for many decades been one of the icons of nonlinear optics, and is a personal hero of mine. He will continue to be known and respected all over the world for his innovative ideas, his dynamism and passion for his subject, and not least for being a wonderfully friendly colleague and enthusiastic supporter of young students and postdocs over all the years. He will be sorely missed.
Philip Russell
President, OSA


I am so sad to hear about the death of Prof. George Stegeman, my wonderful boss at the UA Optical Sciences Center in the 1980s. George was a regular visitor to Scotland and he recruited a bunch of young Scots to join his optical research team. I was one of those and I will never forget the kindness he showed me over four lovely years in Tucson. George has been my ideal role model ever since of how to build a great team and keep people working hard, motivated and happy. He was a tremendous scientist, a leader and a warmhearted human being who will be missed by many. Our condolences and best wishes to the family.
Dr. Neil Finlayson
Product Development Director
Greenspace Live

It is a truly unfortunate loss to the optics community, but also a personal loss of a colleague, collaborator and friend.   We at CREOL took advantage of his status in the early days by recruiting him with the Cobb family chair.  His arrival greatly helped our reputation and facilitated future hires.  He also served as a mentor to all of us, but he treated his students and postdocs with the passion of a father.   Yes, he will be profoundly missed.
Eric Van Stryland
University of Central Florida

George Stegeman was notable for the community of collaborators he attracted, the richness of the research problems he addressed, and the variety of approaches he pioneered in his work in optical physics.  Young researchers working with George found all of this remarkable. 
While I was thrilled to work with George when he was at Tucson and later at Orlando, and I myself was a professor, some of my fondest memories date from when I was a postdoctoral fellow in his research group, back in the days when he was still at the University of Toronto.  I had just survived – and benefited from – a somewhat old-fashioned scientific upbringing as a theorist.  Through George’s interest, patience, and enthusiasm I learned of the excitement that comes from matching new ideas in theory with new ideas in experiment.  Other young physicists focused on other lessons they learned from George -- and the lessons to be learned were legion -- but none of us came away from the interaction with him empty-handed.  The Canadian author Robertson Davies wrote that we all have many fathers, most of whom we choose for ourselves. Besides his immediate family, George leaves a host of scientific sons and daughters proud and honored to have worked with him and learned from him.

John Sipe
Department of Physics
University of Toronto

I am very sorry to hear that Dr. George Stegeman passed away over the weekend.  He impacted the nonlinear optics field so strongly, and made huge contributions to the optics and photonics community. He will be deeply missed, but his influence and legacy will surely endure. Please pass our deepest condolences to his family. 
X.-C. Zhang
The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester

OSA Board of Directors

I am really sorry to learn of this sad news- George was a real force in nonlinear optics with a truly lasting legacy of great research.
Sir Peter Knight FRS 
The Kavli Royal Society International Centre 
And Senior Research Investigator
Blackett Lab, Imperial College London

When I joined the OSA Board of Editors as the AO Division Editor for Information Processing, George quickly became one of those people I admire for their knowledge, humility, commitment, and common sense.  He conducted himself as I had always imagined Editors to be:  knowledgeable but not arrogant and with a down to earth approach to editing a journal.  He truly made an impression on me and I am saddened by his passing.
Joseph N. Mait
US Army Research Laboratory
OSA Board of Directors

I was fortunate enough to be a part of George Stegeman's research group at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 1986 through to 1990, first as a postdoctoral fellow, and eventually as an Assistant Research Professor.  The group's intrinsic energy level was enormous thanks to George.  His capacity for work and his ability to successfully juggle multiple commitments were legendary.  And I could but marvel at how frequently superb scientists visited from all over the world, attracted by George!  These visitors, the ideas they brought, the collaborations they formed, and the connections they fostered, made an enormous impact on so many young careers - mine included.  In 1990 George moved his entire operation to the University of Central Florida where he accepted an endowed chair position.  Yet busy though he was, George was generous enough to work on also getting me a tenure track professorship at Central Florida.  But I had other ideas, and despite his disappointment George was gracious enough to help me in my successful bid to get a coveted position at the old AT&T Bell Laboratories - he was just that kind of a person.  How many careers were made or enhanced, and how much great work was done because of George?  His legacy surely endures.
Thank you,
Dr. Victor Mizrahi
Mizrahi Enterprises, LLC

George Stegeman Memorial Symposium
7-8 January 2016         
CREOL, The College of Optics & Photonics

To honor Prof. George I. Stegeman’s seminal contributions in optics, CREOL is organizing a memorial symposium this coming January (January 7-8, 2016) at the University of Central Florida. This symposium will give an opportunity to his many colleagues and friends to celebrate his legacy.
For more information, please visit


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