President's Letter

Toyohiko Yatagai on the International Year of Light.

01 April 2015
Toyohiko Yatagai

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies has begun in a most auspicious way for the photonics community. I was delighted to join more than 1000 people from inside and outside the photonics community at the official opening ceremonies in Paris where the UNESCO building was artistically illuminated and distinguished scientists and diplomats discussed the role of light in energy, communications, art, culture, science policy, agriculture, health, and more.

My participation in IYL events to date has included giving a talk 25 February about the importance of light and light science at the Stuttgart Scientific Symposium and an invited lecture on holographic data storage 16 March at the Japan Society for Precision Engineering symposium. Both of these events were dedicated to the IYL.

I also attended the impressive Taiwan Lantern Festival in March (pictured below) where an estimated 8 million tourists gathered during 10 days of activities that included flying lanterns, fireworks, and colorful nighttime displays.

The primary goal of the IYL is to celebrate and raise awareness of the many uses of light in our lives, and it is not difficult to see the progress we have made in communicating this message in just the first few months of the yearlong celebration. Optics and optically based technologies have revolutionized many modern industries including telecommunications, semiconductor processing, health care, and consumer products such as displays, cameras, and smart phones.

The SPIE IYL kickoff and celebration at Photonics West in San Francisco was a great success. A large illuminated display in the lobby of the Moscone Center featured captivating images and thought-provoking quotations to engage attendees. Talks by Nobel Laureates, honored for their achievements in light-based technologies, attracted standing-room-only crowds eager to hear from leading researchers of our time.

photo of IYL book coverA series of posters highlighted the contributions of Einstein, Maxwell, and other luminaries, providing visual reminders about the origins of our field. The SPIE Press book, Celebrating Light, specifically produced in recognition of the IYL, was also very popular as a complimentary gift.


Japan has a long history as a leading supplier of optical equipment and products. My home institute, CORE, at Utsunomiya University, was established to promote education and research in the field of optical sciences and technology in cooperation with industry, academia, and the government.

My research interests in metrology and holographic storage have offered me the opportunity to establish collaborations all over the world, developing a network of colleagues who are advancing this very important field. In optical metrology, light is utilized to improve the accuracy of measurements and help provide a better understanding of the world around us.

Participating in scientific meetings such as those hosted by SPIE has been a significant factor in my career and in building my network of collaborators. Whether a large, multidisciplinary meeting like Photonics West or a more focused event such as SPIE Optical Metrology or SPIE/OSJ Biophotonics Japan, conferences generate creative ideas and technology solutions. Partnerships and businesses are also established.

In 1988, Hans Rottenkolber founded the Knights of Holography (Holoknights) to bring together top holography researchers to promote cooperation among its members and advance optical science. I am fortunate to have developed lifelong friendships as a member of this group, which includes some current and past SPIE board members. We often meet at conferences around the globe to provide support for the research and help advance science.

I look forward to hearing the latest developments at SPIE Optical Metrology, 22–25 June in Munich, where the newest optical principles and systems for metrology, machine vision, and videometrics will be discussed. With applications ranging from manufacturing and process monitoring to architecture and the arts, it is clear how far-reaching and important optical metrology has become.

Through professional societies like SPIE, focused groups like the Holoknights, and celebrations like the International Year of Light, we can all find a way to share our own technical expertise, develop collaborations to advance our careers, expand our knowledge, and benefit humankind.

In the coming months, the IYL celebrations will continue at SPIE and other meetings around the globe. I hope to see you at one of these events, such as SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego, CA, in August or SPECKLE Metrology in Guanajuato, Mexico, also in August, where you can join me in celebrating the achievements of our community and receive your own copy of Celebrating Light.

Toyohiko Yatagai
2015 SPIE President

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