In Memory

William H. Carter



William Harold Carter, an OSA Fellow Emeritus known for his work in coherence theory, died on March 20, 2009, in Bethesda, Md., U.S.A. He was 70.

Carter was a research physicist and electrical engineer who conducted basic research in optics. He concentrated on the statistical properties of light.

Carter received his B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering (1961 and 1963, respectively) and his Ph.D. (1966) from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., as an assistant professorial lecturer in electrical engineering (1966-1969) while fulfilling his military obligation in the Office of Research and Development, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in McLean, Va., U.S.A. He then moved to the University of Rochester as a research associate in physics with Emil Wolf, with whom he later co-authored many articles.

In 1971, Carter joined the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where he served as a research physicist until 1993. Building on his graduate work, in which he designed and built the first laser in the Southwest United States, Carter pioneered research in coherence theory, holography, lasers, digital image processing and inverse scattering. Upon his retirement from the NRL, he joined the National Science Foundation, where he served as program director for quantum electronics, waves and beams from 1993 to 1994. In that role, he evaluated research proposals and made award recommendations in optics, E&M, plasma and applied physics.

Carter held many academic positions: assistant and associate professorial lecturer in electrical engineering at George Washington (1967-1969 and 1971-1976); visiting research fellow at the University of Reading, England (1976-1977); professor of electrical engineering and graduate school fellow at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (1981-1982); lecturer in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia, Md. (1989-1995); and visiting scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University (1991-1992).

He contributed more than 80 refereed articles to professional journals. He frequently convened or spoke at professional conferences, and he edited four books of invited research papers. He and Emil Wolf co-discovered the quasi-homogneous source model. He was one of the most-cited authors at the NRL. He also worked on special projects for the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

An OSA member since 1966, Carter served as associate editor of JOSA from 1980-1983 and editor of JOSA A from 2001-2003. He was elected an OSA Fellow in 1982. He was also an SPIE Fellow, a three-time recipient of the Alan Berman Research Publication Award, and a Senior Member of IEEE.

An accomplished cellist, Carter played with the Alexandria (Virginia) Symphony, Mt. Vernon Chamber Orchestra, Georgetown Symphony and various chamber groups. He had a pilot’s license and was a member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club for many years. He also belonged to the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. Carter is survived by two children, two grandchildren, a brother and his long-time companion, Linda Demlo.

If you would like to make a donation to the OSA Foundation in remembrance of William H. Carter, please visit:


Publish Date:

In Memory

Become a member or log in to view the full text of this article.

OSA Members get the full text of Optics & Photonics News, plus a variety of other member benefits.

Publish Date:

Add a Comment