In Memoriam: Stig Torsten Stenholm, 1939-2017

September 30, 2017

Stig Stenholm, OSA Fellow and Professor Emeritus at the Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan (KTH) Royal Institute of Technology, passed away on 30 September 2017 at the age of 78.  Prof. Dr. Stenholm was a leading figure in quantum optics, with a focus on laser cooling, Bose-Einstein condensation, and quantum information. Stenholm was made an OSA Fellow in 1996 for innovations in theoretical spectroscopy, including strong-signal laser theory and the prediction of Doppleron resonances. 
Prof. Stenholm’s professional career spanned more than 40 years and one of his greatest achievements was acting as a bridge between the Western and Soviet laser cooling communities.  He organized informal workshops in Finland that would prove crucial to the development of laser cooling research, as noted by Bill Phillips’ Nobel lecture in 1997. Stenholm began his academic studies at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) where he pursued both an engineering degree and a Master of Science degree in mathematics. In 1967, Stenholm completed his DPhil at Oxford on statistical physics (quantum liquids) under the guidance of Dirk ter Haar. He then did postdoctoral research at Yale University from 1967-1968 with Willis Lamb on laser physics. Stenholm returned to Finland where he held several influential positions during this career.  Stenholm was a professor at the University of Helsinki, followed by scientific director of the Research Institute for Theoretical Physics (TFT), and then held a professorship at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. 
Prof. Stenholm authored numerous articles and books during his career including, The Foundations of Laser Spectroscopy (1984) and Quantum Approach to Informatics with Kalle-Antti Suominen (2005). He mentored PhD students from 1973 to his retirement in 2005, many of whom became established and recognized researchers within the scientific community.  In recognition of his work, Prof. Stenholm received the prestigious Academy of Finland Professorship as well as a Humboldt Fellowship, and became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Stenholm delivered the presentation speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics at the Stockholm Concert Hall.
In addition to his research, Prof. Stenholm was known for being devoted to his family and for his life-long love of learning. He was an avid reader and his interests ranged from philosophy to history to science fiction.  Following his retirement, he remained very active, writing papers, taking part in conferences, and making research visits. 
Prof. Stig Stenholm will be dearly missed by his family, colleagues, and many collaborators within the scientific community.

Awards & Distinctions