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January 2018 Number 114

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Institut d’Optique celebrates 100

On 30th October 1917, “Institut d’Optique théorique et appliquée” registered as the combination of a school, a technical innovation center and research institution.

An early photograph of the first building dedicated to Institut d’Optique (inaugurated in 1927).

The three sites of Institut d’Optique, a “national campus” devoted to Optics and Photonics in France.

ICO Secretary Prof. Humberto Michinel (right) presents Prof. Jean-Louis Martin, the Director general of Institut d’Optique, with a congratulation certificate.

Institut d’Optique in France was first created in 1917. At the time already, there was a perceived need for skilled workers at all levels of education and of a national facility to conduct research in optics, in association with test and measurement facilities. The availability of optical instruments, while always a competitive parameter for industry, was particularly noticeable during the turmoil of World War I, and the French government, in contact with industrialists, decided to take action. Exactly at the same time, similar measures were initiated in several other countries, notably the United Kingdom and the United States. On 30th October 1917, “Institut d’Optique théorique et appliquée” registered as the combination of a school, a technical innovation center and research institution. Ever since, it has been at the forefront of the field and contributed to the progress of Optics and Photonics.

The first dedicated building, boulevard Pasteur in Paris, hosted the engineering school, a vocational school for optics shop technicians, a metrology and instrumentation platform, and a research laboratory. From the beginning, it was organized in close cooperation with the Sorbonne and its tenured faculty consisted of University professors.

One hundred years later, Institut d’Optique – Graduate School, as it calls itself to reflect the close association of master and doctoral level education and research, promotes photonics in every aspect. It annually delivers 150 master degrees in optical engineering and spans over three sites in France: the headquarters in Palaiseau, one building in Bordeaux, and one in Saint-Etienne near Lyons. At each site, a research laboratory is established in close cooperation with CNRS (Centre national de la Recherche scientifique) and the local University:Laboratoire Charles Fabry in Palaiseau, Laboratoire Photonique, Numérique et Nanosciences in Bordeaux and Laboratoire Hubert Curien in Saint-Etienne, which together host over 150 doctoral students. Emphasis on innovation has always existed, but has been particularly promoted in the last ten years with the creation of the “innovation – entrepreneurship” study track: 15 startup companies have been created by the alumni, of which 13 currently employ a staff of over 150. Their innovative skills have been recognized by a large number of awards.

A highlight of the centennial celebration was the triple event organized during the week of 9-13 October 2017 successively in Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux and Palaiseau. Five Optics & Photonics learned societies, including some hosted by Institut d’Optique, sent representatives, recognizing its role in their activities for one hundred years. The ICO Secretary Prof. Humberto Michinel was one of five representative of learned societies who attended the Palaiseau event and congratulated the Institute on the occasion. Indeed, Institut d’Optique has always been supportive of learned society activity and its initiative of what appears to have been the first international event in Optics after World War II, Réunion d’Opticiens (Paris, December 1946) was at the origin of the ICO!

  Pierre Chavel, Institut d'Optique 




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