Chapter III

Uncertainty: The 1950s  


If Brian O’Brien can be said to have shaped the Institute in the 1940s, then Robert Hopkins can no less be said to have shaped the department in the following decade. I have used the word “uncertainty” to describe the decade because the future of the Institute and indeed of the whole field of optics was uncertain during this period. The 1940s were dominated by demands of World War II, and the Institute rose magnificently to meet those demands, but once the war was over and the large staff of the NDRC was gone, what role would optics have in the University? Nuclear and radar research were much more visible nationally than was optics research, and it was argued that they were the technologies of the future, while optics was the technology of the past. Some within the University dismissed optics as mere “gadgetry.” To compound these difficulties O’Brien decided to leave the University for an industrial position where he could operate on the scale to which he had become accustomed during the war. Before leaving he did begin to implement his vision of the future of optics starting up the optical materials effort by appointing David Dexter to the faculty. Bob Hopkins carried this vision further by expanding the materials group and also hiring a bright young theorist working in the then esoteric field of optical coherence, Emil Wolf. Thus when the laser was invented the Institute was well positioned to take advantage of it. Even before the laser was developed Hopkins saw and took advantage of another tool that would revolutionize optics: the computer. He led the University and the field of optical design into the computer age.

  Robert Hopkins Sets the Course: 1954 - 1965

 Hilda Kingslake  

 Lens Design at the Institute of Optics:

Three Influential Decades at Mid-Century

 Robert Shannon

 Hoppy Stories

 Employees of Tropel-Corning, Inc.

 Psychology, Optics and the Center for Visual Science

 Robert Boynton

 Research and Education in the Field of Optical Materials

 Kenneth J. Teegarden

 On Tropel and The Institute of Optics

 John Bruning and Douglas Goodman

 The Institute and SPIE

 Brian J. Thompson