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SPIE Professional July 2011

Celebrating 50 years of Optical Engineering

By Gwen Weerts

This year Optical Engineering celebrates its 50th volume. Half a century after its inception, the journal continues to provide a valuable resource to researchers and engineers working in optical science, engineering, and technology.

SPIE and its flagship journal were born out of the post-WWII era, when a group of range-tracking and signal-core photography technicians were looking for a way to connect with one another. Since LinkedIn and Facebook had not yet been imagined, the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers was created to fill the role of professional networking.

Over the next decades, SPIE continued to grow. Former executive director Joe Yaver recalls that SPIE soon gained a reputation as a society willing to take a chance on new people and ideas. Physicians drifted in looking for noninvasive instruments; astronomers found SPIE when they needed a place to collaborate on astronomical instrumentation. Wherever relevant technology intersected, SPIE expanded its scope to include it.

 The SPIE journal has taken on different names and looks over the years
The SPIE journal has taken on different names and looks over the years.

"There was a vacuum for these people, and it was the Society's role to fill it. Wherever there was a vacuum, we started a meeting," says Yaver.

Many of these meetings have grown into the most successful and well-attended conferences in their fields. Two of the largest SPIE meetings, Photonics West and Optics and Photonics, remain loci of cross-disciplinary collaboration and networking.

Launched in 1962

In the early days, SPIE quickly recognized that a successful society would require a successful research journal and vice versa, and in 1962 the first issue of the SPIE Journal was launched.

At the time, the young Society was struggling to survive financially. In fact, the Society owned a printing press that was used to print the member newsletter SPIE Glass (the forerunner of this magazine). To bring in side income, this same press was used to print wedding invitations. Still, the cost of printing a new publication was an obstacle. Despite the hurdles, the need for a journal was recognized, and SPIE wanted to be there to fill it.

Fortunately, events at that time were on the journal's side. SPIE had just begun a meeting for astronomical instrumentation engineers (a meeting that exists today as the biennial astronomy meeting) when funding for the study of space aeronautics suddenly began to pour in, thanks to the space race of the 1960s. The research landscape had shifted to the side of applied science, and the Society and its journal were in a good position to accommodate it.

In 1972, under the editorial leadership of Douglas Sinclair, the journal name changed to Optical Engineering, which more accurately reflected the work being done by SPIE members and authors. By the 1980s, the journal grew to the largest circulation in its field, and its success was attributed to the breadth and importance of the technologies covered as well as the collaboration that the journal facilitated.

Interdisciplinary approach

Brian Thompson, a past SPIE President and Optical Engineering editor, says its interdisciplinary nature is one of the journal's best assets and reflects the mission of SPIE.

"One of the things that's tremendously important is: you don't want to make journals narrow. I learn so much by browsing through journals, seeing something I wouldn't have gone to look at otherwise… It causes you to see the integration of the discipline," Thompson says.

The booming interest in biomedical optics, nanophotonics, photovoltaics, and other areas has since spawned offshoot SPIE journals dedicated to these specific fields. Although these journals remove some high-interest topics from Optical Engineering by necessity, the journal remains a publishing destination for newly emerging technologies and applications, as well as the classic areas of research and applications in optical engineering.

Setting new standards

SPIE Journal, Optical EngineeringNot that "classic" should be conflated with black-and-white television sets or propeller-driven airplanes. Recent issues of Optical Engineering have included special sections highlighting topics of significant novelty and interest, including quantum and interband cascade lasers (November 2010) and infrared detectors (June 2011). The success of these collections of papers is setting a new standard for the journal, and current editor Ron Driggers intends to keep pace with the progress.

"We're trying to improve it for the whole community. Every year we're taking steps to improve the service the journal gives the Society and optical engineers worldwide," Driggers says.

As Optical Engineering matures, it is taking some exciting new directions by increasing the speed of publication, improving the quality of papers, and pursuing special sections on hot topics that reflect current research and interest. Just as underwater photography reflected the relevant technology of the 1960s, upcoming special sections on topics such as space telescopes and liquid crystals for photonics anticipate the cutting-edge technologies of today.

"The journal has a great reputation and a great history. If you ask someone why they're publishing in Optical Engineering, that's one of the reasons," Driggers says.

SPIE thanks the readers, authors, and editors of Optical Engineering for a great first 50 years and looks forward to reporting many of the most exciting developments in optical science and engineering over the next 50 years.

Browse through the journal.

-Gwen Weerts (SPIE Journals staff editor)

The SPIE journal Optical Engineering is soliciting paper submissions for the following upcoming special sections:
May 2012

A special section on unmanned systems technology to be published next May will focus on research that has enabled the development of intelligent robots that can perform dangerous military missions, dust crops from the air, or vacuum rooms in modern households.

Guest editors are Douglas W. Gage (XPM Technologies, USA), Robert E. Karlsen (U.S. Army), and Edward M. Carapezza (Renewable Resources, USA).

Papers submitted should focus on sensor and sensor processing technology, including LADAR, stereo vision, and multispectral imaging, and other research to enable future mobile unmanned systems to accurately understand and act upon their environment.

This special section will also concentrate on the algorithmic infrastructure required to fuse sensory data from disparate sources and transform it into an iconic 4D image of the world that can be effectively acted upon to create "intelligent behaviors." These include algorithms for object and behavior characterization and identification, reasoning about focus of attention and saliency of observation, gesture and posture recognition, and development of a comprehensive world model.

Manuscripts are due 1 August.

August 2012

Precision optical measurements and instrumentation for geometrical and mechanical quantities will be the topic of a special section of Optical Engineering in August 2012.

This special section will share the latest advances of optical-based precision measurements and instrumentation upon which manufacturers of many optical components and other advanced technology products depend.

The geometrical and mechanical quantities of interest include length, angle, form, surface roughness, displacement/strain, torque, speed, etc.

Suggested topics include:

• Optoelectronic systems and optical instrument design

• Optical measurements and image processing

• Online and in-press measurements

• Intelligent measurements and instrumentation

• Uncertainty, traceability and calibration, and signal-processing algorithms

Guest editors are Kuang-Chao Fan (National Taiwan University), Rong-Sheng Lu (Hefei University of Technology, China), and Lian-Xiang Yang (Oakland University, USA).

Manuscripts are due 1 September.

To submit your research for consideration in a special section of Optical Engineering, please prepare the manuscript according to the journal guidelines and use the online submission system.

Winning papers are open access

In celebration of 50 years of Optical Engineering, papers that have earned the Rudolf Kingslake Medal will be open access in the SPIE Digital Library and freely available to all readers until the end of 2011.

SPIE awarded the first Kingslake Medal in 1974 to honor a founding faculty member of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. Rudolf Kingslake, who died in 2003, was a significant contributor to the study of lens design and optical systems and an author of many seminal books and papers on optics.

The medal recognizes the most noteworthy original paper to appear in Optical Engineering on the theoretical or experimental aspects of optical engineering.

The 2010 Rudolf Kingslake Medal and Prize is awarded to SPIE Fellow Joseph W. Goodman for his paper titled "Some properties of speckle from smooth objects" published in the June 2010 issue of Optical Engineering.

The Kingslake Award Committee recognizes Goodman for presenting novel theoretical and computational findings of symmetry properties of the Fourier plane spectrum of speckle from smooth surfaces and how these symmetries affect image speckle contrast.

See links to the open-access papers.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201110.30

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