In Memoriam: George I. Stegeman

    Date Posted: 
    Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Former OSC professor George I. Stegeman, a pioneer of nonlinear optics, passed away suddenly on May 2.

    Black-and-white archive photo of George Stegeman sitting in his office in the Meinel BuildingStegeman joined the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center in 1980, after several years on the faculty of his alma mater, the University of Toronto (Canada). His research focused on integrated optics, acoustical optics and surface plasmon phenomena, and he advised 30 OSC graduate students.

    In 1990, he took a position at CREOL: The College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida, where he was named the first Cobb Family Chair in Optical Sciences and Engineering. He retired as professor emeritus in 2008 but remained active in the field, holding a research and teaching position at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (Saudi Arabia) from 2010 to 2013 and a visiting professorship at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (Germany) in 2013.

    Stegeman was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society (OSA). In 1979, he received the Herzberg Medal for Achievement in Physics from the Canadian Association of Physicists, the most prestigious award for science given by the Canadian government to a young researcher. In 2003, he received OSA's R.W. Wood Prize, "for pioneering nonlinear integrated optics through seminal experiments and continuing leadership."

    He was particularly proud of the 2001 Teacher of the Year Award he received from the CREOL Association of Optics Students, as he had never taught a core course.

    Stegeman published more than 700 papers during his career and co-authored the well-regarded text Nonlinear Optics: Phenomena, Materials and Devices (Wiley, 2012) with his son Robert A. Stegeman. He also held honorary doctorates from the National Institute of Scientific Research (Canada) and the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (Mexico).

    Professor of optical sciences and physics Ewan M. Wright, who served as a postdoctoral researcher at OSC under Stegeman in the 1980s, shared these words:

    Professor George Stegeman was a person of great warmth and intellect, and a towering figure in nonlinear optics. He always had time for students and colleagues alike, and his unbounded energy and generosity helped advance and shape the careers of many people around the world.

    Jerome V. Moloney, professor of mathematics and optical sciences and a longtime colleague, offered the following remembrance:

    George was both a remarkable scientist and a wonderful human being. He loved to embrace new ideas and built up a remarkable reputation over the years as a world expert in nonlinear guided wave optics. He was always full of ideas and willing to learn from others. He built a very impressive and active experimental research group at OSC and never shied away from engaging in abstract theory. George will be a huge loss to the field of nonlinear optics and will be greatly missed by all of us.

    As his son Robert said:

    We choose to celebrate his life rather than mourn his passing. The sheer number of people he touched in a positive way is staggering to me.

    Obituaries are available on the CREOL website and the OSA website.