June 27, 2008--Widely regarded as one of the most influential leaders in the optical design and engineering field, Warren J. Smith died on June 19 in California at age 85. Smith was a Fellow and past president of SPIE (Bellingham, WA), and since 1987 had been at Rockwell Collins Kaiser Electro-Optics (Carlsbad, CA), where he was Chief Scientist Emeritus.
As author of Modern Optical Engineering, first published by McGraw-Hill in 1966, and now co-published by SPIE and in its 4th edition, Smith was one of the best-known authors in the field. He also authored Modern Lens Design and Practical Optical System Layout.
"Warren was a mentor who always listened, and was always very supportive," said Max Riedl, who worked with Smith at Infrared Industries in Santa Barbara, CA. "A clear and critical thinker, he was never satisfied with 'just' solving an optical problem. During the 23 years we worked together, I never saw any of his designs that did not bring the predicted results."
Born on 17 August 1922, Smith graduated from Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. After graduation, he worked for Eastman Kodak in Oakridge, TN. In 1946 he became chief optical engineer at Simpson Optical Manufacturing Company in Chicago, IL, and in 1959 he moved Raytheon in Santa Barbara, CA, where he was manager of the Optics Section until 1962. From 1962 until 1983 he was director of R&D at Infrared Industries in Santa Barbara, and VP of R&D at Santa Barbara Applied Optics until 1987.
Smith served in numerous leadership positions for SPIE, taught popular short courses for the Society and other organizations for many years, and was instrumental in helping develop the Society's role as an international organization. He was the recipient of the SPIE Gold Medal of the Society and Directors' Award, and was honored with a tribute conference and proceedings volume as part of the SPIE Optics and Photonics symposium in San Diego in 2005.
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