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Lasers & Sources

Leon Esterowitz video: From defense to human health

National Science Foundation

Leon Esterowitz completed his PhD in the early 60s in the early days of the laser. After a career in defense, he moved to NSF, and now reviews funding proposals in biophotonics.
13 January 2010, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201001.03

Leon Esterowitz is program director for Biophotonics, Advanced Imaging, and Sensing for Human Health (BISH) at the National Science Foundation. The BISH program supports innovative research of biophotonic, imaging, and sensing technologies for applications in human health.

He completed his PhD in physics at New York University in 1963. In the mid-60s he led the Quantum Electronics Group of the Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. From 1971 to 1999 he served as Section Head, Branch Head, and Chief Scientist, respectively in the Optical Sciences Division at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

He developed next-generation infrared imaging technology, including focal plane arrays, and signal and image processors, for surveillance, target acquisition, identification, weapons guidance, and threat-warning systems. He also investigated laser interactions and photothermal effects in absorbing media at visible and infrared wavelengths. In late 1999 he moved to the National Science Foundation to initiate the Biomedical Engineering Program Element, which grew into the present-day BISH program under the NSF Directorate for Engineering.

Esterowitz is author of 332 papers and has been awarded 34 patents, 15 of them on medical laser development. He developed advanced solid state lasers for use in previously unexplored spectral regions, and pioneered the development of compact, low-cost, diode-pumped, solid-state lasers at wavelengths required for biomedical applications. He developed new highly efficient flashlamp-pumped two-micron solid-state lasers, replacing cumbersome and expensive solid-state and gas lasers used previously for medical applications.

Related links: NSF Biophotonics, Advanced Imaging, and Sensing for Human Health (BISH) program funding site