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In memoriam: Arthur Cox

In early January the optical community lost one of the its best known and respected optical designers, Dr. Arthur Cox. Arthur had been a friend for almost 40 years and was actively designing lenses until a few days before his death at 92, in Newport Beach, California. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Optics of London, the Optical Society of America and SPIE. He held over 50 patents.

Cox graduated with honors from the University of Durham, England, and, in 1937, went on to earn a Master's Degree in mathematics at Cambridge University (Christ College). In the early 60s he was awarded a D.Sc., from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne). After graduation he worked for Aldis Brothers and then for Taylor, Taylor and Hobson. At TT & H, Cox worked for one of the most respected optical designers of that period, Arthur Warmisham. He was also joined by two other well known colleagues, Charles Wynne and Harold Hopkins.

During World War II, Cox worked on a wide range of optical lenses and systems, mainly for military applications, for which he was awarded a substantial number of patents. His first of several books, Photographic Optics, published in 1943, was written during the war years and was such a success that today the book is in its 14th edition and has been published in several languages. So that he could continue writing during bombing raids, Arthur told me that he wrote while lying on a mattress, under the table, using only a candle to provide adequate illumination.

He moved to the United States in 1947 and worked for Farrand Optical Company. In 1951, Cox was appointed Chief Optical Designer at the Bell & Howell Company in Chicago. It was there that Cox did his most productive work. He was responsible for developing and training a team of Optical Designers, one named Tom Harris, later to become the founder of Optical Research Associates in Pasadena. At Bell and Howell he was responsible for creating a wealth of products. In particular, under his guidance, the efficient manufacture of zoom lenses was developed. Arthur, with his great experience, directed the use of a number of techniques encompassing many different disciplines. In particular, Arthur was responsible for developing methods for manufacturing aspheric surfaces. He described this before a distinguished audience at an International Conference in London in 1961.

He retired from Bell & Howell in 1967 as vice president of optics, but he didn't stay retired for long. During the next five years he completely re-wrote Photographic Optics and consulted for a number of companies throughout the world. In 1972 he returned to Bell & Howell as president of the optics division. He retired again after five more years, but was soon back designing optical systems, particularly zoom lenses. He gave a number of papers on this topic at SPIE meetings, the last one in April 2005, when he was 90 years old.

Obituary by Fred Abbott

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