In Memoriam: Orestes N. Stavroudis

    Date Posted: 
    Friday, January 24, 2014

    The college has received the sad news that Professor Emeritus Orestes N. Stavroudis passed away on Jan. 18.

    Born in 1923, Stavroudis received bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia University and earned a doctorate at Imperial College at the University of London in 1959. An expert in the mathematics of geometrical and physical optics, he spent several years as a mathematician for the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) before joining the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Center in 1967 as one of its earliest professors. He advised eight M.S. and Ph.D. students during his tenure.

    After retiring from OSC in 1988, Stavroudis worked in senior science positions for Fairchild Industries' space division and the Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. In 1992, he became a senior researcher at the Center for Research in Optics in León, Mexico, where he continued his work until 2011.

    Professor Emeritus B. Roy Frieden shared these thoughts about his former colleague:

    Nick Stavroudis embodied all the virtues of the intellectual Manhattanite that I, a denizen of that secondary (yes, most of us admit) borough Brooklyn, admired. He was cultured and learned, yet kindly and sanguine under nearly all circumstances. He was a true gentleman. There’s generally not much math discussed in optical circles, so it was a particular pleasure to talk over mathematical effects, such as the Zernike polynomials, with him. We also shared a love of classical music — being avid listeners to WQXR New York — and a fascination with history, and often discussed these.

    [...] When he left OSC some 40 years ago, I felt privileged to inherit his office. ... It’s a pleasure to sit in the space, and use the furniture of, someone you long admired. ... I imagine him having conversations with Spinoza at this time.

    Arvind S. Marathay, who met Stavroudis while completing a master's degree at Imperial College and followed him to the Optical Sciences Center, wrote upon hearing the news, "[It] is really sad when you read that a close friend is no more. ... My association with him has been enjoyable. ... I will certainly miss him."

    Stavroudis' scholastic interests included the differential geometry of wavefronts, K-function and Maxwell equations, wildly off-axis telescopes, generalized ray tracing and modular optical design. Among his many publications were several monographs and three books: The Optics of Rays, Wavefronts and Caustics (Academic, 1972); Modular Optical Design (1982, Springer); and The Mathematics of Geometrical and Physical Optics: The K-function and Its Ramifications (Wiley-VCH, 2006). He was a member of the science and engineering honor society Sigma Xi.


    Edited Jan. 31, 2014 to add: Remembrances provided by Pamela Shack are also available.