The Early History of the IEEE Photonics Society Newsletter
In this article, I present a perspective from: 1) my 30 years of volunteer service during the formative years of what is now the IEEE Photonics Society and 2) my personal experiences in helping to create and guide some of the photonic technologies that “drive” the world in the 21st Century.
I became an IEEE member in 1962 (60 years ago) while I was an Electrical Engineering student at Villanova University. In my last semester (Spring 1964) at Villanova, I took a course on Materials Science. The last chapter of our textbook talked about a new device that was demonstrated in 1960. It was called a LASER and I was “hooked” immediately.
In 1964 two events began to shape the world of the LASER:
1) Townes, Basov & Prokharov shared the Nobel Prize for their pioneering work on lasers and
2) an Intersociety Joint Council on Quantum Electronics was formed by IEEE/ED, IEEE/MTT, AIP/APS and
OSA. This joint council was the beginning of what is now the IEEE Photonics Society.
At this same time (Fall of 1964), I began working on my master’s degree, as a graduate teaching assistant, in the Solid- State Device Group at Case Western University. In the spring of 1965, my advisor, Dr. Wen Ko, and I both members of the IEEE Electronic Device Society (ED), received Volume 1/Issue 1 of a new IEEE Journal. It was the Journal of Quantum Electronics (JQE), and it was published by the Joint Council on Quantum Electronics. By this time, semiconductor diode (GaAs) lasers were being developed at several research laboratories. Dr. Ko felt that Si or Ge, both of which were well developed as transistor materials, should be studied, as well as GaAs, as a possible laser material candidate. But both Si and Ge were indirect semiconductors and thus, were not suitable for a laser material. Then we discovered a published manuscript which suggested that Ge in a PNP transistor structure (as opposed to a PN diode structure for GaAs) could produce a laser if the NP part was a tunnel diode which could provide a direct carrier effect and thus, become a laser. My master’s thesis was thus, an attempt to observe radiative recombination of direct tunneling electrons by luminescent means. I used equipment at General Electric Lamp Division which was nearby in Cleveland.
Upon completion of my master’s degree in 1996, I joined the technical staff of RCA Labs in Princeton, one of the developers of GaAs semiconductor diode lasers. Because of my continuing interest in lasers, I began investigating laser optical data storage systems. At this time, I met Dr. Joseph Bordogna (IEEE President, 1998) who had worked for RCA but was now a Professor at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
I became one of his first Ph.D. students and completed my Ph.D. in 1972. My dissertation was on optical data storage using relief-phase holography. During this time frame, I was attending IEEE QE Council technical meetings such as CLEA in 1969, first Topical Meeting on Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) in 1975 and CLEOS in 1976 to name a few.
In 1978, the IEEE Quantum Electronics & Application Society (QEAS) was formed from the IEEE QE Council. Dr. Henry Kressel, my VP at RCA Labs, was the first president of QEAS. Henry “suggested” that I begin a Newsletter for QEAS. So, in the Fall of 1978, Volume 1/Issue 1 was published and distributed to the 2600 members of QEAS. I was the Editor; Milton Chang and Susanne Stotlar were Associate Editors and Milton Birnbaum was staff photographer. The first newsletters were published twice a year (Spring & Fall). The newsletter’s goal was to provide information to the membership about conference schedules, chapter news, journal publication deadlines, photos of conference events (including honors & awards) and a President’s report.
In 1982, I became president of QEAS, and Susanne Stotlar took over as Editor of the Newsletter. In 1985, QEAS became the Lasers & Electro-Optics Society (LEOS), and I was on the OFC Steering committee and, an IEEE LEOS Traveling Lecturer. In 1989, I was General Co-Chair (with Paul Liao) of CLEO. I was also Co-Chair of many other Conferences and Topical Meetings. In 1989, Paul Shumate became the Editor of a new IEEE LEOS publication, Photonics Technology Letters. He asked me to be an Associate Editor who would handle new photonic application manuscripts. I held that position for the next 20 years.
Today we are the IEEE Photonics Society, a renown international society.
In the early years of the society, some questioned whether the laser would ever become a useful device. Today the question is what the laser is NOT useful for? Almost every industry has found exciting uses for the laser (medical, military, telecommunication, data storage, civil engineering, lighting and manufacturing to name a few). The use of the LASER in these fields have literally changed the world!
The LASER binds our photonic technologies together, but the newsletter is the “glue” that binds our membership (technologists) together. Every time I read a copy of the latest IEEE Photonics Society Newsletter; I feel a sense of pride as any parent feels when watching their child succeed in life.
For me, personally, two technology events shaped my adult life. 1) The launch of Sputnik in October 1957 by the Soviet Union. At that time, President Eisenhower spoke to the nation about Sputnik and stated that our country needed more engineers. I asked my High School Physics teacher what engineers do? He said that scientist make scientific discoveries, but engineers make useful technologies from those scientific discoveries, technologies that can change the world. Sputnik guided me into my profession, Electrical Engineering. 2) My awareness of the development of the LASER in 1964 while attending Villanova for my Electrical Engineering degree. The LASER guided me into my career, Photonics.