Skip to Content

Affiliated Commission of

Affiliated Member of

ICO Awards

Prof. Adolf Lohman (1926-2013)

ICO mourns the passing away of Prof. Adolf Lohman (1926-2013).

photo It is with great sadness that we have to inform the worldwide optics community of the passing away of Professor Adolf W Lohmann on 15 December 2013, at the age of 87. Adolf, an internationally distinguished scientist, was perhaps the world’s foremost pioneer and leader in the area of optical information processing. 

His many seminal contributions helped develop the fields of holography and computer holography, classical interferometry, speckle interferometry, a better understanding of 3D wave fields, self-imaging, partially coherent optical processing, digital optical computing, the Wigner distribution and fractional transformations in information optics, super resolution, temporal optical processing, optical similarity, and a subject that he liked to call flatland optics.

His highly original ideas, which linked optics with signal processing, were always delivered with a great sense of joy and in an intellectually elegant manner. Adolf was not simply ingenious; he was also a fundamentally good and hardworking person with a magnetic personality and a profound sense of generosity. Over a period spanning decades, Adolf inspired and attracted students and visiting scientists from around the world to work with him and members of his prestigious groups, first at the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla, USA, and subsequently at the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany. The Applied Optics group in Erlangen was a truly outstanding international centre for the conduct of research in a friendly environment that was notable for its ability to inspire original developments. For many of his students and visiting researchers, he instilled, seemingly effortlessly and without evident intent, a sense of family that continued into his retirement years and even today. It came as no great surprise to his friends and colleagues that nearly 100 “Lohmann optics” people attended a symposium in 2006 celebrating his 80th birthday.

For many years Adolf participated as speaker and as a German delegate at ICO meetings. He served as an ICO vice-president from 1975 to 1978, and at the 11th triennial meeting of the ICO, held in Madrid, Spain, in 1978, he was elected ICO President, a position that he held from 1978 to 1981. Adolf organized the ICO Topical Meeting “Optics in 4-Dimensions,” held in Ensenada, Mexico, in 1980, and the ICO-15 triennial meeting held at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in 1990. Thereafter, in multiple ways, Adolf continued in his commitment to ICO.

He exhibited a sky-clear style when writing scientific papers. Often he dared to explore nonconventional topics in novel ways, always favouring visual representations. For many good examples of such presentations we direct interested persons to his book Optical Information Processing, which for several years was privately printed and is now available as a publication of the Technical University of Ilmenau.

His many scientific achievements were recognized through the following distinctions: IBM Invention Award, 1964; IBM Outstanding Invention Award, 1967; Federal Medal of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany), 1981; SPIE President’s Award, 1983; Max Born Award of the Optical Society of America, 1984; C.E.K. Mees Medal of the Optical Society of America, 1987; and the Emmet Leith medal of the Optical Society of America, 2008. He was also honored by the 2002 publication by SPIE of the book Optical Information Processing: A Tribute to Adolf Lohmann. Despite his many achievements, Adolf was at heart a humble person, ready to share his accolades with others. He insisted that he and his co-authors of journal papers be listed in alphabetical order in order to assure that his name not be over-emphasized.

The international optics community will remember Adolf and his lasting contributions. He is survived by daughters Sabine, Johanna, Luise and Eva and grandchildren Franka and Max.

Johannes Schwider, Gerd Häusler and Jorge Ojeda-Castañeda