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In memoriam: William 'Hank' Carter

17 April 2009

William H. "Hank" Carter, 70, an SPIE Fellow and research physicist and electrical engineer who worked for the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., from 1971 to 1993 and conducted research in optics concentrating on the statistical properties of light, died 20 March at Suburban Hospital, the Washington Post has reported. He had pulmonary fibrosis.

As part of his graduate work, Carter designed and built one of the first lasers in Texas. Drawing on that foundation, he conducted research on the nature of laser light, holography, digital image processing and analysis, and coherence theory, which describes the random behavior of light.

With physicist Emil Wolf, he was a co-discoverer of the quasi-homogeneous source model. This concept showed succinctly the relationship between the intensity and coherence of light at the source and at great distances from the source and was used as a starting point for many other studies.

In time, this general area of research, to which Carter contributed, evolved and facilitated the development of practical military and civilian applications, such as weapons systems, medical imaging, printing, various types of instrumentation, and industrial and commercial processes.

He served as chair of SPIE's Fellows Committee, and wrote more than 80 articles for professional journals, and lectured in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins Univ. and other schools.

A Houston native and a 1961 electrical engineering graduate of the Univ. of Texas at Austin, Carter did postdoctoral work in physics at the Univ. of Rochester.

During Army service in the late 1960s, he was assigned to the Central Intelligence Agency's office of research and development. From 1993 to 1994, he was program director for quantum electronics, waves and beams at the National Science Foundation.