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Lasers & Sources

In memory: Elias Snitzer, fiber laser pioneer

SPIE Pressroom
24 May 2012

Laser pioneer Elias Snitzer, 87, inventor of the glass laser, the fiber laser, and the fiber amplifier, died 21 May after a sudden illness. 

Snitzer's seminal contributions to photonics research over 40 years helped pave the way for the development of the fiber optics technology on which the Internet and other communications systems operate. His contributions also found applications in medical imaging technology as well.

"The optics and photonics community lost an early laser pioneering giant with the passing of Dr. Elias Snitzer," said SPIE Fellow and Past President Anthony DeMaria. "His contributions served as early springboards for the developments of modern fiber optical technology."

While director of research at American Optical in the 1960s and '70s, Snitzer published on the operation of the first Nd:glass laser soon after the ruby laser was announced, DeMaria recalled. This announcement was followed by the first flash-lamp-pumped fiber laser, and an analysis of the optical modes in a multimode glass fiber.

"He then joined my research group at United Technologies Research Centerto head the photonics laboratories," DeMaria said. Snitzer initiated the fiber optics sensor research program there. "He had the idea of interfering two Ar ion laser beams to form fringes on a glass fiber, thereby imprinting phase gratings in the fiber to form optical filters and wavelength sensitive mirrors."

Snitzer was among laser luminaries honored in the SPIE Advancing the Laser tribute display shown around the world in 2010 as part of the 50th anniversary of the demonstration of the first laser. He published several papers with SPIE and served as conference chair and proceedings editor.

"His death is a great loss to the optics and photonics community," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "Dr. Snitzer made a huge difference to our field and his work has contributed to and influenced our world in profound ways."

Elias Snitzer JPEG

More details about Snitzer's career appear in an open-access article in Optical Engineering published during the laser anniversary year, and an oral history interview published by the American Institute of Physics.

Read more in the SPIE Press Room