Paul F. Forman was a co-founder of Zygo Corporation, a company that manufactures and distributes high-end optical systems and components for metrology and end-user applications, and a member of OSA for 52 years. He is known for his work on retroreflective arrays and interferometers.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Optics from the University of Rochester in 1956. He worked for a short time at Bausch & Lomb before joining the Perkin-Elmer Company in 1957, where he held a number of engineering, program, and management positions, including serving as Director of Optical Engineering. At Perkin-Elmer he worked with Carl Zanoni and Sol Laufer on various optical devices, including prisms that were taken to the moon to perform measurement studies. Forman later won NASA’s Apollo Achievement Award for the retroreflector array used on the first lunar landing.
His collaboration with Zanoni and Laufer that began at Perkin-Elmer developed into a long-term business relationship when Forman recruited his two colleagues as co-founders of the Zygo Corporation. With funding from Canon, Inc and Wesleyan University, the trio launched Zygo to produce optics “with the highest precision surfaces and angles in the world.” The company’s first product offering, an interferometer known as Model GH, was introduced in 1972 at an OSA annual meeting. Zygo became the world’s leading supplier of interferometers and remained the leader in the field for a decade.
Forman remained with Zygo until 1993. He went on to serve as Zygo Chairman Emeritus and board member, chairman of the board of Cambridge Research & Instrumentation, and as an independent consultant to and board member of a number of high-tech companies.
In a commencement address delivered to the 2003 University of Rochester Institute of Optics graduating class, he talked about lessons learned during the 47 years since his graduation. He offered ten lessons that propelled him to success and that illustrate the integrity and commitment to excellence that characterized his life and his career: “If you believe something can be done and it is worth doing, be persistent and just do it; Aim to be the best and never lower your sights; Teamwork, and employing complementary skills, usually pays dividends; Choose your partners, in business and in life, very carefully; Have a mentor from whom to learn; An enthusiastic, can-do attitude is contagious and drives creativity; Exceed customer expectations; Learn how to use time efficiently; Make integrity your middle name; Communicating well is essential; and Be responsible for your own success.”
Forman was named a Fellow of OSA in 1990 and was awarded the Edwin H. Land Medal, given for pioneering entrepreneurial activity that has had a major impact in the science of optics, in 1998. He served on the OSA Board of Directors as chair in 1990-1991 and again as Director at Large from 1997-1999. He was also the recipient of numerous awards and honors from other organizations, including: the SPIE Alan Gordon Award, a Westinghouse Science Talent Search Scholarship, the Bausch and Lomb Science Scholarship, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Rochester School of Engineering & Applied Science, the Distinction in Photonics Award from the Laurin Publishing Company, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Precision Engineering.
Forman passed away in 2007.