Milestone Moment

SPIE marks both the end of a series and the contributions of its 22-year series editor.
01 October 2006
Margaret Thayer
In July 2006, SPIE Press published the final volume in its longest-running book series, the Milestone Series of Selected Reprints (see sidebar). For its entire 22-year run, the series was handily edited by long-time SPIE Fellow and past president Brian J. Thompson.
Thompson, now retired as Provost Emeritus of the University of Rochester, traces his SPIE roots back to 1963 -- the same year he relocated from his native England to the United States. Thompson was intrigued with the young society because SPIE focused on technology transfer and user support, and embraced new fields of interest and technology.
As the Society grew, so did Thompson's involvement with SPIE, becoming an important aspect of his professional life. He remarks, "I have always felt that professional activities of all kinds were a responsibility that I had to honor."
By the early 1980s, Thompson was periodically meeting with then-SPIE Executive Director Joe Yaver to discuss the Society and how it could best serve the community. In late 1982, Yaver asked Thompson if there was a need for some type of reprint series, and the pair eventually arrived at the Milestone concept. There was no question as to who should shepherd the new series.
"Having been heavily involved in coming up with the specific concept, I had no choice but to follow up and make it happen," Thompson says.
The first two Milestone volumes were published in January 1985 numbered as part of the SPIE Proceedings. If the Milestone idea was successful, it would be transformed into a stand-alone series.
By January 1989, the sixth Milestone volume was published, this time with its own identity. The Milestone Series of Selected Reprints was folded into the domain of SPIE's new Optical Engineering Press, which had been launched in 1988.
Each of the 182 volumes in the Milestone series contains a collection of reprinted seminal papers and patents from a worldwide variety of publications on a specific topic in optical science or engineering, all wrapped in a distinctive slate-blue cover. Thompson invited topical experts to serve as volume editors, who selected and organized the papers for each volume.
From the beginning, the first line of Thompson's Milestone Introduction summarized the purpose of the series: "There is no substitute for reading the original papers on any subject even if that subject is mature enough to be critically written up in a textbook or a monograph."
Readers and volume editors consistently responded positively to the series. As three-time Milestone volume editor Akhlesh Lakhtakia remarks, "Twenty-second-century historians of science are very likely to conclude that breath-takingly rapid progress in optics and photonics for the last two decades was facilitated by the Milestone Series brought out by SPIE under the general editorship of Provost Thompson. Provost Thompson carefully chose qualified editors as well as themes, and these volumes contain the best of optics research."
The series never lacked willing volume editors or topics. "Rapid progress in the use of light in many areas has led to whole new subfields of research, development, and application," notes Thompson, and the Milestone titles reflect that progress.
Despite constant changes in the field, the Milestone series concept never changed.
"We started with a set of volumes that covered fundamentals and then built on those to areas of application and instrumentation," says Thompson.
Although the Milestone Series has yielded to the Digital Age, with most scholarly papers now available at the click of a mouse, those seeking the seminal material on 182 topics in optical science will have access to the existing Milestone volumes indefinitely.
Now that his Milestone duties are completed, what's next for the industrious Thompson? "I still have many involvements -- too many! I will not know my next adventure until I am in it. If I knew ahead of time I would have avoided it . . . I am retired!"

Hot off the Press
The last two Milestone volumes are published and ready for purchase. Read more about them at
Selected Papers on Phase-Space Optics collects 70 seminal papersdated from 1932 through 2004 describing the spatial properties of optical signals in terms of phase-space in the classical optical fields, and sketches some of the many interesting applications of phase-space methods. (MS181; 718 pages; hardcover; $88 for members). Editors: Markus E. Testorf, Jorge Ojeda-Castañeda, Adolf W. Lohmann.
Selected Papers on Nanotechnology -- Theory and Modeling is a collection of 50 papers focused on the theory and modeling of nanoscale materials and structures.
Topics covered include nanotubes, quantum dots, photonic crystals, sculptured thin films, spintronics, nanomagnetics, and nanobiotechnology. (MS182; 548 pages; hardcover; $75 for members). Editors: Fei Wang, Akhlesh Lakhtakia.

Margaret Thayer, SPIE Staff Editor

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