History of the Society

A brief timeline from 1955 to present

A history of making a difference

Since 1955, SPIE has focused on supporting and advancing the international optics and photonics community. View our timeline below to see how our not-for-profit has grown and developed, serving our constituents across the globe.

A brief history of SPIE

Connecting minds and advancing light since 1955

2020 — present

2023 — SPIE celebrates its 15th annual Prism Awards ceremony at SPIE Photonics West, as well as the 20th version of its Women in Optics publication. Jenoptik and SPIE announce a new Photonics Technician Scholarship. SPIE marks International Day of Light with “Possible Through Light” campaign. Rushnan Islam becomes the inaugural SPIE Graduate Fellow in Optical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. University of Glasgow’s Patrick Cameron named as the first recipient of the SPIE Early Career Research in Quantum Photonics Scholarship. SPIE Journal of Medical Imaging welcomes Bennett Landman as new editor-in-chief, and the SPIE Journal of Applied Remote Sensing names new editor-in-chief, Jenny Du of Mississippi State University. In addition, BiophotonicsDiscovery, the Society’s 15th journal, launches, led by Editor-in-Chief Darren Roblyer. SPIE journals increase their CiteScore and Impact Factor rankings, while SPIE Press publishes its first optics and photonics books for children. SPIE welcomes University of Rochester’s Julie Bentley into the Society’s presidential chain.

2022 — SPIE launches two journals with Chinese Laser Press, Advanced Photonics Nexus and Photonics Insights, bringing SPIE academic-journal total to 14. Morehouse College’s Wesley Sims is named 2022 recipient of $100,000 IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award. SPIE Fellow Paul McManamon wins 2022 Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award. Quantum specialist Matt Eichenfield named inaugural SPIE Endowed Chair in Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona’s Wyant College of Optical Sciences. SPIE hosts first Photonics Industry Summit in DC. SPIE Digital Library Signs the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). SPIE Showcases the “Our Future is Light” campaign for IDL. SPIE announces the $1-million SPIE Graduate Fellowship in Optical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Rochester. Zygo’s Peter de Groot is elected into SPIE presidential chain. SPIE mourns the loss of former Society President John Greivenkamp.

2021 — SPIE announces the $800,000 SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy at the University of Birmingham. University of Arizona professor Jennifer Barton is elected into SPIE presidential chain. In partnership with IBM, SPIE establishes $100,000 IBM-SPIE HBCU Faculty Accelerator Award, with Delaware State University’s Renu Tripathi as its first recipient. SPIE announces $1-million SPIE Faculty Fellowship in Optics and Photonics at Vanderbilt University. SPIE launches new conference, SPIE Quantum West, during Photonics West.  SPIE launches new Journal of Optical Microsystems, and the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS is renamed Journal of Micro/Nanopatterning, Materials, and Metrology.

2020 — SPIE announces partnership with open-knowledge platform The Lens. Adam Wax is appointed editor-in-chief of Optical Engineering; Zeev Zalevsky becomes editor-in-chief of Journal of Electronic Imaging; Anna Devor is appointed editor-in-chief of Neurophotonics, and Sean Shaheen is appointed editor-in-chief of Journal of Photonics for Energy. Bernard Kress elected is into SPIE presidential chain. Celebrating 60 years of lasers, SPIE establishes a new Society award, the SPIE Maiman Laser Award, with Robert L Byer as its first recipient. SPIE Fellows Irving Bigio and Sergio Fantini win the 2020 Joseph W. Goodman Book Writing Award. SPIE announces five new matching-endowment awards: the $1-million SPIE Early Career Researcher Accelerator Fund in Quantum Photonics at University of Glasgow; the $1-million SPIE@ICFO Chair for Diversity in Photonic Sciences; the $2.5 million Baur-SPIE Endowed Chair in Optics and Photonics at JILA and the University of Colorado; the $250,000 Soileau Family-SPIE Optics and Photonics Undergraduate Scholarship Fund at University of Central Florida, CREOL; and the SPIE-Glebov Family Optics and Photonics Graduate Scholarship Fund, also at CREOL. Newly re-vamped SPIE Membership magazine launches as Photonics Focus.

2010 - 2019

2019 - The SPIE Endowment Matching Program, a $2.5 million educational-funding initiative, launches and the first grant of $500,000 creates the SPIE Chair in Optical Sciences at the Wyant College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona. SPIE and Chinese Laser Press publish inaugural issue of open-access journal Advanced Photonics. The SPIE Digital Library hits half-a-million milestone. A new survey jointly commissioned by SPIE and OSA assesses level of harassment at scientific meetings. SPIE acquires Photonex, UK's top optics and photonics exhibition from Xmark Media. SPIE partners with Laser Focus World on the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar starting in 2020 at Photonics West.

2018 - Inaugural $75,000 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship awarded to Dr. Haley Marks. SPIE and Chinese Laser Press launch open-access journal Advanced Photonics. New Scholarship honors the memory of SPIE Senior Member and Mentor Graphics Chief Engineer Nick Cobb. SPIE names Kent Rochford as new CEO of the Society. SPIE celebrates the first International Day of Light on May 16, 2018. SPIE announces three new awards.

2017 - Startup, job-type comparisons made for first time in annual photonics salary report. Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems accepted into Science Citation Index Expanded. UNESCO declares 16 May the International Day of Light. SPIE launches a "World of Light" photo contest offering cash prizes, to help raise awareness about the IDL and the vital roles that light and light-based technologies play in daily life. SPIE CEO Eugene G. Arthurs announces his intention to retire. Brian Pogue named editor of Journal of Biomedical Optics. SPIE Digital Library moves to enhanced new website. SPIE celebrates 40 years in Bellingham, Washington; dedicates headquarters to first Executive Director. SPIE Fellow and Past President Eugene Turner passes away.

2016 - SPIE launches inaugural SPIE BioPhotonics Australasia conference. SPIE, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and the National Cancer Institute's 'Grand Challenge' targeting prostate lesion diagnostic imaging is introduced. Ten distinguished early-career professionals are the first recipients of a new Rising Researcher award recognizing work in defense, commercial, and scientific imaging, optics, and related fields. David Casasent, SPIE Past President and professor emeritus at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is mourned by SPIE. Leader and visionary Joe Yaver, SPIE Executive Director from 1969 until 1993 passes away.

2015 - The United Nations International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL) 2015 is celebrated through the photonics community; SPIE is a Founding Partner and helds a worldwide IYL photography contest. SPIE Photonics West attracts a record-breaking 21,000 attendees. SPIE names 58 new fellows to the Society, surpassing 1,000 in total; general membership reaches 18,500. Karen Egiazarian is named editor of the Journal of Electronic Imaging.

 - Ali Adibi is named editor-in-chief of the Journal of Nanophotonics. SPIE contributes $100,000 in a University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences FoTO matching funds program established by SPIE Past President James Wyant. SPIE launches three new journals: the Journal of Medical Imaging, Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems, and Neurophotonics. Michael Eismann is named editor of Optical Engineering.

2013 - A new author-choice open access publishing program for SPIE journals launches with strong participation. The National Photonics Initiative is launched, enhancing the community's ability to raise awareness of the technology; SPIE is a Founding Partner. Criteria for optics and photonics undergraduate degree programs proposed by an ABET (Applied Science Accreditation Commission) team led by SPIE are approved. SPIE joins the Photonics21 Association, established to foster public-private partnerships under the European Research Framework Programme Horizon 2020.

2012 - SPIE.tv reaches 100,000 views on YouTube. The SPIE Digital Library is expanded to include the earliest published articles, from 1962. SPIE Fellows Alan Willner and Paul McManamon co-chair the U.S. National Academies' committee on a new report titled, "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation," and present the first public briefing at SPIE Optics and Photonics. The addition of 21 new SPIE Student Chapters boosts the total past 200.  

2011 - SPIE launches mobile applications for the SPIE Field Guide to Geometrical Optics, SPIE Newsroom, and SPIE Conferences. Chris Mack is appointed editor of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS and MOEMSOptical Engineering celebrates a 50-volume milestone. SPIE conducts the largest global salary survey of the optics and photonics community representing 93 countries with more than 6,800 responses.

2010 - SPIE Advancing the Laser video series launches anniversary year of the laser. SPIE and IS&T appoint Gaurav Sharma editor of Journal of Electronic Imaging. Photonics West makes successful move to San Francisco. SPIE eBooks launch in the SPIE Digital Library. SPIE publishes a virtual museum of laser devices featuring devices from throughout the 50-year history of the technology. SPIE launches Journal of Photonics for Energy. SPIE begins first accreditation cycle as optics and photonics lead for university programs as a member of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). A new award in biomedical optics is established in honor of Britton Chance.

2000 - 2009

2009 - Ron Driggers is named editor of Optical Engineering and Lihong Wang editor of the Journal of Biomedical Optics. SPIE celebrates the telescope's 400-year anniversary. SPIE launches online courses in optics and photonics.

2008 - The SPIE Digital Library passes the 250,000-article milestone. SPIE retires its regional chapters, and welcomes the launch of new regional societies. SPIE installs a solar electric system on the roof of its Bellingham (Washington, USA) headquarters. SPIE and Photonics Media launch the Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation. A Senior Members program is announced.

2007 - SPIE retires its DBA "The International Society for Optical Engineering" to operate as SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

2006 - The online SPIE Newsroom and SPIE Professional member magazine are launched. Two electronic journals, the Journal of Nanophotonics and the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, are announced. Membership is over 17,000 and SPIE has 91 Student Chapters throughout the world.

2005 - SPIE celebrates its 50th anniversary in San Diego, California, USA, in conjunction with SPIE Optics and Photonics. The SPIE Digital Library is extended back to 1990 and surpasses 200,000 online papers.

2004 - SPIE launches two new events, SPIE Optics East and SPIE Photonics Europe. SPIE Press introduces the Field Guide Series with four titles: Field Guide to Visual and Ophthalmic Optics, Field Guide to Adaptive Optics, Field Guide to Atmospheric Optics, and Field Guide to Geometrical Optics. SPIE membership reaches an all-time high of 16,550 members.

2003 - SPIE Digital Library is launched, offering 70,000 full-text papers from SPIE journals and conference proceedings. SPIE and OSA secure a $1.7 million NSF grant that will actively involve students, parents, teachers, school districts, and their greater communities in the areas of science and engineering.

2002 - The Journal of Microlithography, Microfabrication, and Microsystems (JM3) debuts in March. MySPIE offers authors, chairs, committee members, and other constituents a web-based manuscript submission program to give these audiences better support.

2001 - In January, oemagazine launches, as a new member publication on optics, photonics, and society news. The SPIE Europe office opens in Cardiff, UK.

2000 - SPIE launches Optical Networks magazine covering the technologies, architectures, services, and applications in the field of optical telecommunications and networking systems. The SPIE Scholarship Committee awards over $220,000 in Scholarships and Grants. SPIE Member Zhores I. Alferov wins the Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed optoelectronics.

1990 - 1999

1999 - After more than five years as Executive Director of SPIE, Jim Pearson resigns. Eugene Arthurs is appointed Executive Director. SPIE Membership continues to grow and reaches an all-time high with 14,338 individual members.

1998 - SPIE introduces the first CD-ROM short course at the 1998 SPIE Photonics West Event. SPIE journals become available online. The Society starts the year with over 13,750 Members. Members nominate 21 new Fellows to the Society.

1997 - Photonics West is a huge success with over 10,000 attendees and 415 exhibitors. Membership reaches all-time high with over 13,500 Individual Members and 317 Corporate Members. The number of SPIE Regional Chapters reaches a high of 21 in over 17 different countries. SPIE Journals from 1996 are available for the first time on a single, searchable, readable, and printable CD-Rom. The SPIE Women in Optics Technical Community is formed.

1996 - The Journal of Biomedical Optics is introduced and publishes four quarterly issues. The Photonics Resource Center on the World Wide Web (optics.org) is launched. SPIE and OSA cooperate to lead the formation of the Coalition for Photonics and Optics.

1995 - SPIE celebrates its 40th anniversary. Photonics West debuts in San Jose, California, USA. Co-located with the Photonics West Event is the SPIE/IS&T Electronic Imaging Event. SPIE cosponsors Photomask in Kawasaki City, Japan, with SPIE Japan and BACUS. SPIE and COEMA cosponsor the International Sensors Application and Electronic Components Exhibition in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China.

1994 - SPIE offers its first-ever CD-ROM Proceedings at the Electronic Imaging Symposium. spie.org makes its debut. The Photonics East symposium is inaugurated. SPIE opens a satellite office in Bergen, Norway. Continuing Education Units are offered for short courses at the AeroSense Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

1993 - After 24 years as Executive Director of SPIE, Joe Yaver announces his retirement. Jim Pearson is appointed new Executive Director. SPIE Press publishes The Infrared & Electro-Optical Systems Handbook. A Proceedings milestone is reached when the Society publishes its 2,000th Volume. SPIE cosponsors the first Symposium on Coupling Technology to National Need in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

1992 - SPIE develops its first fully operational Internet site with plans for a complete online services expansion. The quarterly Journal of Electronic Imaging debuts, co-published by SPIE and IS&T.

1991 - Representatives of SPIE and the newly formed European Optical Society (EOS) sign the EUROPTO joint venture agreement, improving international collaboration in organizing optics events in Europe. The SPIE Annual Index of Proceedings Papers, the Society's first such publication, is introduced in May.

1990 - The Society establishes an SPIE Soviet Union Chapter, making it the first United States-based scientific and engineering society to open a chapter in the then-U.S.S.R. SPIE also establishes Chapters in Poland and Hungary. International Headquarters expansion is completed in September.

1980 - 1989

1989 - OE Reports circulation exceeds 70,000. SPIE boasts 200 Sustaining Members. SPIE publishes its first Tutorial Text. The Harold E. Edgerton Award is given for the first time. Membership reaches 10,000.

1988 - SPIE establishes the SPIE Optical Engineering Press to provide a framework for its special scholarly publications.

1987 - The Society expands its presence in Europe with additional chapters, events, and meetings. An agreement is reached with the European Physical Society and Europtica Services I. C. to cosponsor a series of International Congresses for the next four years.

1986 - Two new symposia are introduced, OE/LASE in Los Angeles and Technical Symposium Southeast in Orlando. The Society celebrates its 30th Anniversary in San Diego, California.

1985 - Optics Education, the first survey of graduate and undergraduate programs in optics and optoelectronics, is published. SPIE and the ANRT-Association Nationale de la Recherchâ Technique, co-organize a three-year European conference series.

1984 - OE Reports is launched to provide monthly news and commentary for the optical engineering community. Membership reaches 5,000. Optical Engineering circulation exceeds 7,000. The total number of Proceedings Volumes distributed since their inception reaches 200,000. SPIE holds more than 70 conferences worldwide.

1983 - The First International Technical Symposium (Geneva, Switzerland) has 1,300 attendees from 26 countries. Due to demand in various technical areas, new Technical Working Groups are formed. The Dennis Gabor Award is established to recognize outstanding inventive accomplishments in optical systems. International Headquarters is officially dedicated in Bellingham, Washington.

1982 - SPIE is appointed International Secretariat for the 15th International Congress on High-Speed Photography and Photonics. SPIE holds five major symposia.

1981 - To reflect its rapidly changing Membership and fast-paced technology, the Society name is officially defined as SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering. The Society celebrates its 25th Anniversary in San Diego, California, with a record 21 technical conferences, 160 instrument displays, and 18 tutorials. SPIE reaches milestones of 4,000 Members and 5,000 exhibitors. Over 10,000 papers are published in SPIE Proceedings and Optical Engineering. Over 150,000 copies of SPIE Proceedings and Journals are distributed.

1980 - Membership reaches 3,000. SPIE Headquarters reaches 30 full-time employees. The Society purchases land in Bellingham, Washington, for future construction of International Headquarters. The number of technical papers doubles in the SPIE Journal, Optical Engineering.

1970 - 1979

1979 - Proceedings Volume 200 is published. The SPIE Technology Achievement Award is established to recognize outstanding accomplishments in optical, electro-optical, or photonics engineering technologies. SPIE holds 46 technical conferences. The Society establishes its first European office.

1978 - Educational Fund established to foster educational activities in optical engineering. SPIE holds 36 technical conferences.

1977 - The Gold Medal of the Society Award is established to recognize outstanding engineering or scientific accomplishments in optics, electro-optics, or photographic technologies or applications. The Society Headquarters is moved to Bellingham, Washington. SPIE income reaches $1,000,000. Membership is 2,000. The 100th Proceedings Volume is published.

1976 - SPIE holds 27 technical conferences. SPIE celebrates its 20th Anniversary with Brigadier General George W. Goddard and Rudolf Kingslake being honored guests.

1975 - The Society becomes financially viable with income reaching $500,000. SPIE holds 16 technical conferences. SPIE presents author manuscript kit at all its conferences.

1974 - Rudolf Kingslake Medal and Prize is established for recognition of the most noteworthy paper to appear in Optical Engineering. SPIE holds 10 technical conferences.

1973 - National Headquarters moves from Redondo Beach to Palos Verdes, California. SPIE holds 11 technical conferences. The Annual Meeting is held in San Diego, California for the first time.

1972 - The SPIE Journal name changes to Optical Engineering. The 100th Sustaining Member enrolls in SPIE. SPIE holds eight technical conferences.

1971 - Journal name changed to Journal of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Albert M. Pezzuto Award is established to recognize a currently serving or former national officer or director who has given exceptional service to the Society. SPIE holds six technical conferences.

1970 - Journal name changed to Journal SPIE, and SPIE-GLASS is included in Journal. Tabletop Exhiborama is established as SPIE hallmark at the Fiber Optics meeting in Dallas, Texas. SPIE produces its first meeting in Japan.

1960 - 1969

1969 - Membership reaches 1,200 and Sustaining Membership reaches 50. SPIE holds five technical conferences. Joseph Yaver is hired as Executive Director.

1968 - Physical Optics Notebook, by Parrent and Thompson, is published.

1967 - Demand for technical conferences continues to grow; SPIE meets demand by offering 4 more technical conferences and supporting Proceedings. SPIE income reaches $50,000.

1966 - President's Award is established to recognize meritorious service of outstanding benefit to the Society. Award is given by the President and the Board of Directors. SPIE holds four technical conferences.

1965 - The SPIE Newsletter name is changed to SPIE-GLASS. The number of national SPIE Chapters reaches 15.

1964 - The Journal is renamed the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers Journal to reflect the Society's formal name change to the "Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers."

1963 - SPIE holds its first technical seminar-type conference and publishes its first official proceedings, on image enhancement.

1962 - The official Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers Journal is launched with an October/November issue.

1961 - Membership in SPIE reaches 1,000. George W. Goddard Award is established to recognize exceptional achievement in optical or photonic instrumentation for aerospace, atmospheric science, or astronomy.

1960 - The SPIE Newsletter publishes its first group of technical papers. The SPIE Sustaining Membership category is created. First Honorary Membership awarded to Lewis Larmore.

1955 - 1959

1959 - A. J. Carr is hired as first full-time executive secretary. The first photo-instrumentation course is organized through the University of California at Los Angeles.

1958 - Karl Fairbanks Memorial Award established. The third SPIE Symposium marks the first time government agencies cosponsor an SPIE symposium.

1957 - The first SPIE Newsletter is published. The first national technical symposium is produced. Membership in SPIE reaches 200.

1956 - Incorporated as Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers in the State of California. The Society produces its first product display (Exhiborama) with 250 in attendance. First 100 Members.

1955 - On July 1, the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers is founded to specialize in the application of photo-optical instrumentation. The Society's first local technical meeting is held in Los Angeles on August 8.