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Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing

Speckle Renaissance

Joseph W. Goodman, SPIE Gold Medal of the Society recipient, is spending his retirement working on new speckle research. From SPIE Professional.
30 July 2007, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.4200707.10

Joseph W. Goodman is this year’s recipient of the SPIE Gold Medal of the Society. Goodman is receiving the award for his work in the field of Fourier optics, optical interconnects, optical signal processing, and speckle. He is also being honored for his work as an influential author and teacher and successful entrepreneur. Now that Goodman is retired from teaching, he has been able to dedicate more time to his very first research interest: speckle.

Joseph W. Goodman

Goodman’s path to optics was not a traditional one. In fact, he says he never studied optics in school beyond the typical sophomore physics class.

“My PhD was in the field of radar countermeasures,” says Goodman. His thesis was immediately classified in 1962 and was only declassified three years ago.

After studying information theory of time-varying channels at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment as a post-doctorate, he accepted a job as a research associate at Stanford University (Stanford, CA).

“At that time, by a stroke of good luck, Stanford had just received an Air Force contract to study possible uses of lasers, which had become commercially available for the first time,” says Goodman. “My knowledge of statistics and communication theory then led me into studies of speckle, holography, and optical information processing. I learned what I needed to know from journal articles and books. I never left the field of optics after that.”

He became an assistant professor at Stanford in 1967, and taught until his retirement in 2000, with one year spent teaching at the Institut d’Optique in Orsay, France, and a summer as a visiting scholar at Sydney University in Australia. He now holds the title of William Ayer Professor Emeritus. Goodman has also been an active member of many societies, including SPIE. He became an SPIE Fellow in 1978, was a member of the SPIE Board of Governors twice, and received the Dennis Gabor Award in 1987.

Early in his profession Goodman wrote the book Introduction to Fourier Optics, which is now in its third edition and has become a classroom standard.

For the majority of his career, Goodman studied holography, optical interconnects, and information processing. In the 1990s he worked on optical solutions for the interconnect difficulties in the semiconductor industry.

“I was fortunate to have a very bright student named Alan Huang,” says Goodman, “who was convinced that electrical interconnects would eventually have difficulties as clock rates rose, and that optics was an attractive solution to this problem. He inspired myself and many of my students to think about this possibility, and we tried to put the field on a somewhat firmer theoretical basis.”

Goodman also consulted for many companies, and even started his own business. With venture partners SPIE Fellows Alexander “Sandy” Sawchuk and Anil Jain, he formed Optivision, specializing in image compression and photonics, which would later fold. A spin-off of Optivision, ONI Systems became very successful and was bought by Ciena in 2002.

Goodman attributes the success of ONI Systems to a combination of factors, including venture funding and a management team with experience in the commercial world. “But second of all,” he points out, “it was formed in the early years of the optical bubble, and just about anything that had the word optical or fiber in its name generated enormous interest. So timing, timing, was an incredibly important aspect to the success of that company.”

He also notes that while Optivision had great potential and “had a lot of sophisticated compression technology, it never could find a way to generate sales that were big enough to support the R&D that was necessary to keep up with that rapidly changing field.”

Speckle Research

Since becoming a professor emeritus, Goodman has devoted his time to researching and understanding speckle, the first problem he ever worked on in optics.

“Speckle is a subject I’ve been interested in ever since I joined the field of optics,” says Goodman. “Over the years I followed the development of the field closely and contributed some things myself.”

Goodman’s book Speckle Phenomena in Optics: Theory and Applications was published in 2006.

“Since then,” he says, “I have been receiving a lot of inquiries, particularly about the problem of speckle in laser-based displays, which is a rather hot topic in industry right now. This has motivated some new thinking about speckle on my part.”

One has been the trade-offs in reducing speckle caused by atmospheric turbulence.

“In laser radar systems, there are several approaches one can take to reducing speckle,” Goodman explains. “Multiple laser frequencies is one approach. The second approach would be to illuminate the object from several different angles, that is with several different laser sources at different positions, and each of those speckle patterns produced by separate lasers under the right conditions are independent and tend to average out.”

He’s also looked at speckle as it relates to lithography, and the concern of degradation from temporal speckle.

“It’s not very well known how to reduce that kind of speckle, other than having a more stable laser source,” he observes. “For the moment there’s a lot of interest in the phenomenon, but it has not been observed experimentally, to the best of my knowledge. That may be partially because there are other sources of error that are masking it, and that as the sources are made somewhat narrower in bandwidth the effect would be predicted to become a little bit worse, and maybe it will surface then.”

Goodman is also involved with philanthropic work through the J. W. & H. M. Goodman Foundation, and provided the endowment for the Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award (see sidebar).

He is currently working on a second edition to his book Statistical Optics, and still does some consulting for businesses.

“I really don’t need to do [consulting] if I don’t want to,” admits Goodman, “but there’s one subject that is always so interesting to me that I have a hard time saying no to it, and that, as you might guess, is speckle.”

—Beth Huetter, SPIE Staff Editor

Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award

The Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award, cosponsored by SPIE and OSA, is given out biennially and funded by the J. W. & H. M. Goodman Foundation.

The award recognizes authorship of an outstanding book in the field of optics and photonics, published in the last six years, that has contributed significantly to research, teaching, or the optics and photonics industry. For more information about the award, visit SPIE.org/x3075.xml.

Harrison H. Barrett and Kyle J. Myers received the honor last year (the inaugural year of the award) for their book Foundations of Image Science (John Wiley & Sons, 2003).