Optics has changed everything. Barcodes make shopping a breeze. MRIs detect injury and disease. Cameras capture life on Facebook and Instagram, as well as speeding cars. Telescopes found that Pluto is a dwarf planet. Laser technology confirmed the presence of gravitational waves, removes wrinkles from our skin and restores our vision. Sensors adjust the headlights on a car or the lighting in a room. LIDAR systems guide autonomous vehicles. For the last century, The Optical Society (OSA) and its more than 19,275 global members have been at the forefront of these innovations.
Today in Rochester, New York, USA, The Optical Society, the leading global association in optics and photonics, proudly celebrates its 100th anniversary in its hometown. Many other innovators also claim this year as their birthday – BMW, Boeing, Thermador, Lincoln Logs, the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Pulitzer Prize and the US National Park Service were all founded in 1916. What those founders shared with OSA was an increasingly interconnected geo-political world and economy.
“Amid the backdrop of World War I, the United States lacked its own optical glass and optical manufacturing infrastructure and scientific collaboration was a challenge,” explains OSA President Alan Willner.”
The Optical Society’s founder, Perley G. Nutting – a scientist at the U.S. Bureau of Standards – had recently joined Eastman Kodak and by 1916 was inspired to improve collaboration among industry, government and academia to address these changing market conditions. Along with 30 charter members including Adolph Lomb, who served as OSA’s treasurer until his death in 1932, Nutting created a professional society to focus on advancing applied optics organized around the themes of photography, vision, optical materials and optical instruments.
“Today, The Optical Society serves as a global catalyst for the science of light,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO of The Optical Society. “We are proud of our members; the scientists, engineers and corporate leaders, including 34 Nobel Laureates, whose work has inspired the next generation of scientific discovery. To honor these achievements, we created our centennial exhibit, which captures 100 iconic moments in the history of optics including: the first neon sign invented by our founder in 1904; the 1947 demonstration of the first 'selfie' by Edwin Land who invented the Polaroid; the commercialization of bar codes in 1974; and confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of the existence of gravitational waves in 2016. Our members are at the forefront of discovery.”
The OSA celebrations coincide with its 100th annual meeting at the Frontiers in Optics Conference and Exhibition, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center with innovations from more than 600 scientific, technical and educational presentations and 50 industry exhibits.
Several events are open to the public with free registration:
- HoloLens Virtual Reality Headset Demonstration Featuring Bernard Kress of Microsoft: Wednesday, 12:00 – 14: 00 (Media preview available upon request)
- OSA 100 Year BASH: Wednesday, 18:30 – 21:30, Sibley Building. Tickets ($100) are available for exhibit attendees who are non-OSA members. (Media preview of history gallery and virtual reality pods available prior 18:00)
- Light the Future with Michio Kaku and 7 Nobel Laureates: Thursday, 11:00 – 12:30. Program is free and open to the public.
“To celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Optical Society is to provide excitement and a vision for propelling us to even more expansion and impact on a global basis in the future. An organization like OSA is vital to continuing to promote the importance of optics and photonics and their increasingly large role in our society,” said Willner.
Chris Dainty, 2011 OSA President and Chair of the Centennial Advisory Panel, added, “The Optical Society’s celebration is really about the future. The key to ensuring our successful future is to understand and build on the past. The Centennial celebration has been an amazing opportunity to see where optics has been and looking at where optics can go.”