April 2000

History of the Optical Society: Origins and Roots Do Matter

F. Dow Smith

When I was asked to write a historical sketch of contributions the Optical Society had made to programs in the defense industry which depend on optical techno logy, it seemed far too monumental a task too undertake. It was not a quest ion of whether or not important contributions had been made by the optical community, but rather how to extract from the voluminous record any sort of balanced account. More over, it is the accomplishment of members much more than those of the organization which really matter, though I did recall how often I had heard members talk of the special role the society had played in their own professional lives. As I reflected further, I also realized how much there was in the history of the society, in its roots, in its style, in the pattern of its development, and in its management actions, that provided key underpinnings for these accomplishments. Here, I thought, was an important story I might attempt to summarize.

Protecting the War Fighter's Vision In a Laser-Rich, Battlefield Environment

As the number of common laser wavelengths expands, fabricating appropriate multiline rejection filters becomes more difficult and their overall transmission declines. Against a frequency agile tunable laser that can produce a threat at many unpredictable wavelengths, fixed filters arc simply not effective. The passive nonlinear optical limiter offers the best hope for protection against these threats.

Optical Technology in Naval Applications

From the days of telescopes and optical range finders, optics has played a significant role in Naval operations. Modern-day applications include missile guidance, night vision devices, electro-optical surveillance and reconnaissance, and target designation- to name only a few. The Navy has always been a strong supporter of technology because of the sophistication of the aircraft, ships and satellites it uses in its day-to-day operations. In keeping with its emphasis on technology, the Navy conducts active research and development (R&D) programs focused on cutting-edge applications.


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