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In memoriam: Adolf Lohmann, holography and information processing pioneer

18 December 2013

Adolf LohmannAdolf Lohmann, distinguished optical scientist, SPIE Fellow, and recipient of the SPIE A.E. Conrady Award, passed away on 15 December 2013, at the age of 87.

Lohmann was renowned for his pioneering, seminal contributions to the field of optical information processing and holography, specifically computer-generated holograms.

His many written contributions, as well as his several invited lectures, have a clear enjoyable style, which carry implicitly the message that good research in optics is fun.

Lohmann inspired, mentored and advised many distinguished scholars worldwide. He and his collaborators attracted many young scientists and well-seasoned researchers; first to the University of California, San Diego and later to the University of Erlangen. These groups were in many ways outstanding international centers for doing research in an enjoyable and friendly environment.

In his research and teaching, he had a unique way of connecting different aspects of science. In particular, he introduced several concepts of information science into optics, thus inspiring many new ideas in research topics such as speckle interferometry, 3D wavefields, self-imaging, partially coherent optical processors, digital optical computing, fractional transformations, super resolution, and many others.

He received the 2008 SPIE A.E. Conrady Award in recognition of his invention of the computer-generated hologram, which revolutionized the world of optical testing and design. The Conrady Award is presented to recognize exceptional contributions in design, construction, and testing of optical systems and instrumentation.

Among other honors, he also received the IBM Invention Award (1964), IBM Outstanding Invention Award, (1967), Federal Medal of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany, 1981), the Max Born Award (1984), C.E.K. Mees Medal (1987) and the Emmett N. Leith Medal (2008) from the Optical Society of America.

He was the author or coauthor of approximately 350 technical articles and held numerous patents. In 2002 he was honored with a tribute conference and SPIE Press volume, Optical Information Processing: A Tribute to Adolf Lohmann.

Despite his academic achievements and recognitions, Prof. Lohmann had a remarkably humble attitude, an amicable personality and a great sense of generosity.

It is a great loss to the international optical community. His many former students, co-authors and friends around the world, will sorely miss him. He is survived by his daughters Sabine, Johanna, Luise, and Eva; and by his grandchildren Franka and Max.

Obituary courtesy of Jorge Ojeda-Castaneda, Karl Heinz Brenner, and Bernhard Braunecker