Laser industry pioneer Elias Snitzer passes away

May 24, 2012
The global laser community is mourning the loss of one of its outstanding technologists: the inventor of the fiber laser, Dr. Elias (Eli) Snitzer, who passed away on May 21, 2012.

Brookline, MA -- The global laser community is mourning the loss of one of its outstanding technologists: the inventor of the fiber laser, Dr. Elias (Eli) Snitzer, who passed away on May 21, 2012.

Dr. Snitzer was a pioneer in the field of laser glass research. He demonstrated the first optical fiber laser in 1961, and his visionary inventions include both neodymium-and erbium-doped laser glass. In another far-reaching discovery that preceded today's communication devices by 30 years, Snitzer co-developed the first fiber-optic laser amplifier with laser glass. He held numerous groundbreaking patents and received several awards for his exemplary work in the field of lasers and fiber optics, including the Otto Schott Research Award, the Charles Hard Townes Award, and the Rank Prize in Opto-Electronics. Dr. Snitzer received his undergraduate degree from Tufts University and his doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago. His career spanned over four decades in industry and academia. He held research and teaching positions at American Optical, Rutgers University, Honeywell, Lowell Tech, United Technologies, and Polaroid.

On a more personal level, I was fortunate to have been a colleague, associate, and friend of Eli, commencing with his technical assistance provided to an entrepreneurship venture by a group of young engineers and scientists to create a commercial industrial laser business within American Optical Corp. in the early 1970's. Eli, then a mature professional, acted as a godfather to the enthusiastic group who were attempting to introduce the first production-rated Nd:glass laser into manufacturing operations. The frustrations of that endeavor were made more palatable by the Friday afternoon sessions where Eli would counsel patience with the travails of attempting to transition a new technology into industry.

Over the intervening years, I had occasions to call on Eli for his wisdom and guidance as the field of industrial lasers grew. As always, his calm and thoughtful opinions were freely given. I can picture him today, with his trademark half-smile, nodding his head as he lived vicariously through the efforts of others who were trying to advance his beloved technology. Eli has left a lasting mark on the world's laser community.

In addition to his distinguished professional career, Dr. Snitzer was a devoted family man. He was the beloved husband of the late Dr. Shirley (Wood) Snitzer, and loving father of Sandra and Michael Tristano of Chicago, IL, Barbara and Edward Konowicz of Virginia Beach, VA, Peter Snitzer and Geri Weis of Solon, OH, Helen and Alan Paret of Newton, MA, and Louis and Carol Snitzer of Sydney, Australia. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Leanna, Glenn, Jeff, Mike, Emily, Ben, Daniel, Kirsten, Matt and Amy; and great-grandchildren Killian, Mikah, Tyler, Logan and Theodore, as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Saul Snitzer.

A Memorial Service will be held at the Henry J. Burke & Sons Funeral Home, 56 Washington St. (Rte 16) in Wellesley Hills, MA, on Saturday, May 26 at 12 PM. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, donations in Dr. Snitzer's memory may be made to the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.

About the Author

David Belforte | Contributing Editor

David Belforte (1932-2023) was an internationally recognized authority on industrial laser materials processing and had been actively involved in this technology for more than 50 years. His consulting business, Belforte Associates, served clients interested in advanced manufacturing applications. David held degrees in Chemistry and Production Technology from Northeastern University (Boston, MA). As a researcher, he conducted basic studies in material synthesis for high-temperature applications and held increasingly important positions with companies involved with high-technology materials processing. He co-founded a company that introduced several firsts in advanced welding technology and equipment. David's career in lasers started with the commercialization of the first industrial solid-state laser and a compact CO2 laser for sheet-metal cutting. For several years, he led the development of very high power CO2 lasers for welding and surface treating applications. In addition to consulting, David was the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine (1986-2022) and contributed to other laser publications, including Laser Focus World. He retired from Laser Focus World in late June 2022.

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