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In memoriam: Valentin Vlad, Romanian engineer and physicist

02 January 2018

Valentin Vlad
 Ionel-Valentin Vlad

SPIE Fellow Ionel-Valentin Vlad, president of the Romanian Academy, passed away 24 December in Bucharest (Romania) after a long illness. He was 74.

His fields of expertise included nonlinear optics, nanophotonics, optical information processing, holography and imaging, and optical instruments with lasers.

Vlad had been a member of the Romanian Academy since 1991 and was elected president in 2014. Founded in 1866, the academy covers scientific, artistic, and literary domains.

Vlad was recognized as a pioneer in the fields of holography, nonlinear optics, and information optics by both the Romanian scientific community and several international optical societies, including SPIE.

"Professor Vlad was a laser pioneer in Romania and his work over decades in his homeland really elevated the quality of laser research in that country though periods of great social turmoil," says SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "He gave important visibility to Romanian optics and photonics. His work with SPIE and his counsel were invaluable, but it was his graciousness and hospitality that first come to mind."

In 1991, he traveled to San Diego to meet the SPIE Board, representing the wishes of Romanian optics scientists to form a Chapter of SPIE in Romania. An SPIE Member since 1995, Vlad was made an SPIE Fellow in 2007 for "specific achievements in photorefractive crystals, holography, and interferometry" and for being "one of the world's leading researchers in dynamic holography, photorefractive crystals, and nonlinear optics."

Vlad was an author/coauthor of 54 SPIE papers and served as committee member for 12 SPIE conferences, including as chair of ROMOPTO, beginning in 1994.

SPIE Fellow Valentin Vlad with 2016 SPIE President Robert Lieberman
SPIE Fellow Valentin Vlad with 2016 SPIE President Robert Lieberman

His many achievements, alone and with colleagues, include:

  • creation and study of real-time holograms, recorded in saturable absorbents (1969),
  • the first professional holograms in Romania (1970),
  • elaboration of the first holographic and laser-image processing machines in Romania (1974, in collaboration with D. Popa),
  • the direct spatial reconstruction of the optical phase in the images (co-written by D. Malacara, Progress in Optics, ed. E. Wolf, 1994)
  • theory and experimental observation of spatial optical solitons, which allow the light to be guided through light in tens of thousands of parallel ultra-fast information channels (femtoseconds) into lithium niobate crystals (co-produced with Prof. M. Bertolotti, E. Fazio and his former PhD candidate A. Petris, 2000-2010)

"Valentin Vlad was a good friend and a long-time contributor to ICTP and its optics program," says SPIE member Joe Niemela, senior scientist and program specialist at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Italy. "After Gallieno Denardo passed away, he provided invaluable support to the Winter College on Optics, and its novice coordinator.

"More generally, he was instrumental in establishing strong ties between ICTP and the entire Romanian physics community. He was, above all, a kind and generous person who had a positive effect on his students and colleagues and his country. We will miss him greatly."

SPIE Fellow and 2009 SPIE President Maria Yzuel was also acquainted with Vlad, mainly through ICTP, the European Optical Society (EOS), and the International Commission for Optics (ICO) as Vlad was an active representative for Romania in these organizations. "Professor Vlad was a crucial professor in Romania who helped to integrate his country and the international community," says Yzuel.  "We will miss him."

Roberta Ramponi, director of Italy's Instituto di Fotonica e Nanotechnolgie and President of the ICO, also points to Vlad's contributions to optics and photonics, in particular how the ROMOPTO conferences brought the international optics and photonics community closer to Romania. "He was an outstanding scientist and a person of great humanity," says Ramponi. "He played a crucial role for the whole optics and photonics community. Indeed, we will all miss him."


The Romanian Academy posted an obituary in honor of Professor Vlad (in Romanian).

The ICO also posted an obituary for Professor Vlad (in English).