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SPIE leaders congratulate Imperial College London on optics centenary

08 September 2017

SPIE leaders on Friday joined in congratulating Imperial College London (ICL) on its 100th anniversary of optics research and education.

SPIE Past President Emery Moore, SPIE Fellow Chris Dainty, SPIE Senior Member Tina Kidger, and SPIE 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 cosponsor of the event.

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

ICL's optics program was established as the Department of Technical Optics 1917 to address the shortage of optical engineers needed during the Industrial Revolution. 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 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.

photo from ICL Optics Centenary

Alice Gast (above, center), Imperial College London president, welcomed about 400 celebrants to a full day of lectures by distinguished optical scientists.

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. Members of the SPIE Student Chapter at ICL distributed complimentary copies of Kidger's paper to attendees.

Delivering keynote talks were:

  • Dainty, a former Pilkington Professor of Applied Optics at ICL who is now at University College London
  • Chris Dorman, vice president of SPIE Corporate Member 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 (at right), a professor and head of the Femtosecond Optics Group at ICL
  • Ian Walmsley, a professor at University of Oxford (UK)
photo of Roy Taylor

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