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In memoriam: Wade Thomas "Tom" Cathey, emeritus professor at University of Colorado

21 July 2016

Memorial services will be held 13 August in Boulder for SPIE Fellow Wade Thomas "Tom" Cathey Jr, an emeritus professor at University of Colorado (UC), Boulder and co-founder of CDM Optics and Ubifocal. Cathey was 78 and died 7 July.

Cathey was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Boulder and Denver campus and a pioneer in wavefront coding, a technology used in optical imaging systems.

He published a number of scientific papers in the field, including his 1974 book, Optical Information Processing and Holography.

Cathey joined University of Colorado in 1968 and was awarded a grant from the National Science foundation in 1987 to start the NSF Engineering Research Center for Optoelectronic Computing Systems (OCS) where he served as director until August 1993.

In 1997, Cathey started CDM Optics in Boulder with R.C. "Merc" Mercure and Ed Dowski. The company was acquired by OmniVision in 2005. In 2015, Cathey, who had 23 patents, and Juan Rodriguez started Ubifocal and were developing extended depth-of-field optics for correcting presbyopia.

He had a PhD from Yale University and previously worked at Rockwell International's Autonetics Research in Anaheim, Calif., where he conducted research in phase holograms, adaptive optical arrays, and phase spatial filters. He also taught electromagnetic theory part-time at California State College at Fullerton in 1967.

Among his numerous awards were the Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize for computational optical imaging; the UC Technology Transfer Office Pinnacles of Inventorship Award, and the UC Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award (given to a non-alumnus for distinguished service to the college).

He is survived by his wife, Cherilynn, two daughters and two grandchildren.

A service will be held at 2 pm 13 August at First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, with a reception following. Friends may make donations in his name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or to the UC Foundation.