SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: Remembering the work of optics education leader Gallieno Denardo

Sept. 19, 2007
In July 2007, the science and education community lost a tireless advocate and dear friend.

Science & Technology Education
Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists & business leaders

Grace Klonoski

In July 2007, the science and education community lost a tireless advocate and dear friend, Gallieno Denardo. Before his retirement several years ago, Denardo was the coordinator of the optics and laser programs at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and professor of theoretical physics at the University of Trieste, Italy.

Founded in 1964, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) operates under a tripartite agreement between the Government of Italy and two UN agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

ICTP staff scientists are international experts who do research at the cutting edge of their fields. Constant interactions with many visiting scientists enable the center's research activities to remain at the cutting-edge. Scientists from developed and developing countries attending ICTP activities learn from one another in a stimulating environment that remains responsive to the needs of world-class scientists to remain at the forefront of their fields, without neglecting the needs of researchers, particularly young researchers, from the developing world. The center sponsors a number of initiatives, including the Associates Programme, to provide research and training opportunities in physical sciences.

ICTP welcomes about 5,000 scientists each year. About 50% of the 100,000 scientists who have participated in ICTP research activities since the center's inception in 1964 have been from developing countries.

In the 1970's the first optics program, a biennial college in optics, was established at the ICTP by Alfred Kastler, 1966 Nobel Laureate in physics. Starting in 1985, Denardo oversaw the optics activities, strengthening the program and turning it into an annual event. He also organized applications-focused satellite conferences and workshops on topics such as lasers and fiber optics. In the early 1990's experimental demonstrations were included in the Winter College on Optics curriculum. These demonstrations were so well received, that the Laboratory for Lasers and Fibre Optics was created. The training and research laboratory was established with the assistance of many European laboratories and provides ICTP Fellows with opportunities to experience hands-on activities.

During his tenure, Denardo organized more than 50 scientific meetings and training courses in the field of lasers, atomic, and molecular physics. His first conference on optics and photonics, Winter College on Lasers, Atomic and Molecular Physics, was held in 1985. The directors of this college were, G. Amat, T. Arecchi, R. Bonifacio, A. Dymanus, F. P. Schäfer, and O. Svelto—all internationally recognized members of the optics community. The college included extremely well organized workshops with 60 to 80 students at or near the Ph.D. level from universities in developing countries from around the world. The lectures were comprehensive, covering topics from the basics to the latest advances in optics and photonics.

Anthony Johnson, former editor in chief of Optics Letters, recalls that Denardo had "rock star" status among the students, who revered him for his scientific prowess as well as his charismatic personality. His attention to detail and concern for scientific excellence was nothing short of extraordinary. "For nearly two decades now, I've admired Gallieno because I have seen how he impacted so many promising students and practicing scientists all over the world," Johnson said. "It was a pleasure to lecture in two of his early workshops, and subsequently to discuss strategies for the center's future."

Denardo credited his success to his determination to combine theory with hands-on experience. "I tried to link the theoretical aspect with the experimental, to also offer opportunities for the people who were coming over here to have some contact with lab activities—with applications, with instrumentation," he said.

The lab has evolved into a modern research facility and moved from its original ICTP site to the Synchrotron Light Facility (Elettra) in Trieste. It hosts about 15 ICTP scientists from three to six months each year. These activities benefit from the financial and scientific assistance of the Optical Society of America, the International Commission on Optics, Society of Optical Engineers, the European Optical Society, and the Italian Society of Optics and Photonics.

In 2000, the Trieste System for Optical Sciences and Applications (TSOSA) committee was established. Consisting of members of the sponsoring organizations and the ICTP, the committee meets every year at the ICTP during the Winter College (currently in February) to monitor the activities, to advise on the programs of the following year, and to discuss new projects.

Professor Denardo was an extraordinary leader who was truly dedicated to the academic and professional growth of students from around the world. He understood the enormous challenges of scientists and students from developing regions and helped them to enrich their studies and lab experiences. To read more about Gallieno Denardo and his work, please visit and

Grace Klonoski is the senior director of OSA Foundation and Member & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; e-mail [email protected];

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