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SPIE leaders join Imperial College's optics centenary celebration

14 Sep 2017

Imperial launched its groundbreaking courses into the science of light just a year after Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity was published.

SPIE leaders on Friday September 8th joined a gathering of leading lights from the international photonics community in congratulating Imperial College London (ICL) on its 100th anniversary of optics research and education.

SPIE’s Past President Emery Moore, Fellow Chris Dainty, Senior Member Tina Kidger, and CEO Eugene Arthurs attended the optics centenary event, which included lectures, demonstrations, and displays of Imperial College's long history of vibrant optics-based research and its world impact on the science of light. SPIE was a co-sponsor of the event.

Imperial College's Photon Science Section is the largest university optics center in the UK, with research activities covering multiple related subjects from applied optical systems to quantum optics.

Early days

ICL's optics program was established as the Department of Technical Optics 1917 to address the shortage of optical engineers needed during the First World War and for the fledgling optics industry. A.E. Conrady, an eminent optical designer for whom an SPIE annual award is named, taught the first courses in optical design.

In 1931, the department’s name was changed to the Technical Optics Section and the optics program continued to grow over the years, adding laser, photonics, applied optics, and other research groups over the years. It was recently renamed the Photon Science Section.

In addition to the A.E. Conrady Award, SPIE has two other annual awards named after individuals who worked and/or studied at Imperial, the Dennis Gabor Award and the Rudolf Kingslake Medal and Prize. Kingslake's wife, Hilda, was Conrady's daughter. Hilda Kingslake was, herself, another accomplished optical designer and graduate of Imperial College.

Tina Kidger, owner of Kidger Optics and the author of a 2016 SPIE Proceedings paper, “The optical legacy of Imperial College London," introduced the first three speakers. Delivering keynote talks was a panel of photonics luminaries, who had studied, lectured and held senior posts at Imperial:

  • Chris Dainty, a former Pilkington Professor of Applied Optics at ICL who is now at University College London
  • Chris Dorman, vice president and general manager at Coherent Scotland
  • Paul French, former head of the Photonics Group and vice dean of research for the Faculty of Natural Sciences at ICL
  • Sir Peter Knight, former head of the ICL Physics Department and deputy rector for research
  • Roy Taylor, a professor and head of the Femtosecond Optics Group at ICL
  • Ian Walmsley, a professor at the University of Oxford (UK)
Minute details: The associated exhibition displayed some early minutes of Imperial's optics committee meetings.

Minute details: The associated exhibition displayed some early minutes of Imperial's optics committee meetings.

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