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In memoriam: John Abbiss, interferometry innovator

30 July 2010

Interferometry and spectral imaging innovator John Abbiss,John Abbiss 78, died suddenly from heart failure on 23 June at his home in Irvine, Calif. A longtime Member of SPIE, he is remembered by his colleagues for his unwavering enthusiasm for life in general, his passion for scientific inquiry, and his kind and joyful manner.

Abbiss' early work was with the Guided Weapons Division of the former Bristol Aircraft Company, now part of British Aerospace, as a development engineer, and at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, where he developed laser anemometry techniques for high-speed wind-tunnel applications. The first-ever quantitative studies of supersonic flow with a photon correlation laser anemometer were carried out by his team at Farnborough in 1972. Subsequent development of this method for a wide range of applications, from highly turbulent jets and wake flows to transonic and supersonic separated boundary layers, included an extensive study of information extraction from photon-limited signals.

His investigations in the course of earning his Ph.D. in Physics from the Univ. of Surrey led to the development of innovative mathematical techniques for solving inverse problems, with applications such as spectral estimation, band-limited signal extrapolation, and restoration of noisy images degraded by system aberrations and diffractive blurring.

Abbiss joined Titan Spectron in Costa Mesa, Calif., in 1985, where he worked on the design and development of software and instrumentation for laser velocimetry and optical spectroscopy in ground-based and airborne sensor systems, and the further development of advanced digital techniques for signal and image recovery in satellite surveillance, including their implementation in neural network form.

In 1995, he formed his own consultancy, Singular Systems, in Irvine, Calif., and specialized in innovative algorithms for image interpretation, restoration and super-resolution enhancement. In 2000, he joined MetroLaser, Inc., also in Irvine, where he was involved in a range of applications in holography, interferometry and spectral imaging, often with an emphasis on solving inverse problems with varying sensitivity to noise.

Abbiss was the author or co-author of 15 journal publications and some 40 conference contributions, mainly in the fields of theoretical and applied optics. He has co-edited three books and holds three patents on instrumentation for optical airborne sensors.

In addition to membership in SPIE, he was also a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and a member of the Optical Society of America, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Institute of Physics.

He is survived by his wife, Simone, sister, Jean, one daughter, two sons, and two grandchildren.