Colloquium: Jim Breckinridge

    Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
    Meinel 307

    Who was Aden Meinel?


    At the U of A, Meinel is best known as the founder of the College of Optical Sciences. But before he came to the University of Arizona, first as Department Chair of Steward Observatory and then chair of the optical sciences center he was the founding director of Kitt Peak National Observatory and a distinguished member of the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory faculty. During WW-2 he used his Caltech undergraduate aerospace and optical engineering education to serve as a young Ensign in the US Navy assigned to General Patton’s 3rd Army in Germany, during the last months of the war to provide technical assessment of German rocket and optics technologies. 

    After the war, he used the three-years support from the GI-Bill to finish his bachelor’s and PhD degrees at UC Berkeley. For his PhD in Astronomy (1947) Meinel designed and built the first solid Schmidt spectrograph, used it to discover the IR emission bands of OH in the atmosphere and identified the excitation source as protons from the sun. 

    After a 20-year career at the University of Arizona, he retired and moved to NASA/JPL where he worked for me for 8 more years on many space flight optical telescopes and instruments, only to retire again in 1990. In retirement, he designed the optical system that connects the two Keck telescopes to make the world’s largest optical interferometer for Astronomy.

    Speaker Bio(s): 

    Jim Breckinridge is a 1976 PhD graduate from OptSci. He holds a BSc in Physics from Case in Cleveland, a MSc in Optics from the U of A. His career includes 3 years at Lick Observatory, 12 years at Kitt Peak and 34 years at NASA/JPL.  Since retiring in 2010, Dr. Breckinridge has continued teaching his class in optical system engineering at CalTech and gives 4 lectures on Space Optics at the U of A as part of the astronomical instruments class. In addition, he completed a textbook: Basic Optics for the Astronomical Sciences and is the Principal Investigator, with Russell Chipman of a NASA contract at the College of Optical Sciences to investigate the role of instrument induced polarization on contrast in the NASA terrestrial exoplanet space systems studies: HabEx and LUVOIR.