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In Memoriam: Art Guenther

Arthur H. Guenther, physicist, professor, and worldwide ambassador for optics and photonics, died April 21 at his home in New Mexico.

Guenther had a long and distinguished career in optics and photonics, both as an academic and as a contributor to the economic development of New Mexico. As a defense scientist he was known throughout the world for his work in nuclear simulation, laser technologies, pulsed power and nuclear technology. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Distinguished Senior Executive Award, presented to him by President Ronald Reagan. He received the SPIE Directors Award in 2002.

Guenther was chief scientist of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and held a similar position at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Guenther also served as Science Advisor to three New Mexico governors. He served on innumerable advisory committees for research institutions over the years. Recently he was a member of a National Academy panel to recommend management criteria for Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. The panel was asked to identify key management principles to ensure high scientific quality in programs and activities at the two laboratories.

He was elected to the Russian Academy of Science, Ural Division, for his work in enhancing communication between the Soviet Union and the United States in optics as well as other fields. He also served as President of the International Commission for Optics from 1999 to 2002. He was a past member of the SPIE Board of Directors, and a long-time co-chair of the annual Boulder Damage Symposium, the annual conference on the physics/technology of materials for high power/high energy lasers.

Through the Alliance for Photonic Technology, Guenther was the principal driving force behind the development of the New Mexico Optics Industry Association (NMOIA), a trade organization of optics-related companies in New Mexico. He brought the university community and industry-based organizations together to quantify and qualify the criteria for education and skill sets of graduates needed by companies in the area. The NMOIA had planned to honor Guenther with its first Lifetime Service Award at its meeting this week in Albuquerque.

"The world will be a poorer place without him," said Paul McManamon, Immediate Past President of SPIE. "He always had a smile, a laugh, and was always positive."

SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs said that the loss of Guenther leaves a big gap in the technical community. "Optics has lost one of its strongest advocates," Arthurs said. "The number of initiatives he was involved with shows us how much impact one individual can have."

According to Don O'Shea, past president of SPIE, "Art understood both scientific research and politics, and he worked long and hard to assure the support of research in science and engineering, going wherever the opportunity presented itself."

Guenther is survived by his wife, Joan, daughters Tracie and Wendy and their husbands, and two granddaughters.

Memorial contributions in Art's name can be made to NM MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) c/o Pamela Caudill, 2808 Central SE, ABQ, NM 87106 or a technical society of your choice.

Additional statements from friends and colleagues of Art Guenther

Video of Art Guenther describing his involvement as a science advisor to the governor of New Mexico, and with the National Technology Transfer Center in Washington, D.C. He also shares his advice for young people considering optics and photonics careers. QuickTime | Windows Media (QuickTime 7.0 / Windows Media Player 6.0 required)