News | October 27, 2010

James Gordon Named Honorary Member Of The Optical Society

Gordon honored for contributions to quantum electronics, photonics, lasers

The Optical Society (OSA) Board of Directors announced recently that it has elected James P. Gordon as the newest honorary member of the society. Gordon was chosen for his numerous high-impact, seminal contributions to quantum electronics and photonics, including the first demonstration of the maser. Gordon serves as a technical consultant at Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs, where he has worked for more than 50 years.

"Jim Gordon's career has spanned several decades and numerous disciplines, in many cases laying the foundation for whole new fields of physics, including quantum electronics and lasers," said OSA President James C. Wyant. "His work has led to countless application areas, especially optical communications—the backbone of high-speed Internet today. Jim is a true luminary in the field of optics and photonics, and it is fitting to honor him in the year in which the science community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first working laser."

Starting in 1954 as a student and throughout his long career, Gordon has made numerous high-impact, seminal contributions to optics and quantum electronics that have provided fundamental insights and the underpinning foundation for many important subjects in the field. In one of his most outstanding achievements, as a student of Charles Townes at Columbia University, he analyzed, designed, built and demonstrated the successful operation of the first maser in 1954 with Townes and Herbert Zeiger. Continuing to lay the foundations for this new field, he conceived and provided the theory (with Gary Boyd) of confocal resonators, fundamental for the modern analysis of Gaussian laser beams and optical cavities that are critical to the design and operation of lasers. Anticipating the important role that lasers would play in enabling high capacity communication, he pioneered the quantum theory of the information capacity of an optical communications channel providing a seminal breakthrough in the fundamental understanding of the limiting capacity of optical communications.

As the optical communications field evolved, Gordon continued to do research that provided key knowledge and insight that was critical both to fellow researchers and to ultimately deployed systems. Gordon was a co-author of the report on the first observation of soliton propagation in optical fibers. His seminal work on what is now called the "Gordon-Haus" effect, identifies and provides the understanding for the most important bit-rate-limiting effect in soliton transmission due to the random walk of coherently amplified solitons. He provided other insight, including the explanation of the soliton self-frequency shift.

Gordon also provided very early key insight into the fundamental limits of coherent optical transmission systems, which have recently become quite prominent for high capacity commercial optical systems (100 Gb/s per wavelength). He broad interests have also included providing the theoretical basis for "optical tweezers."

Gordon's contributions are recognized worldwide and have brought him honors such as the Charles Townes Award, the Max Born Award and the Frederic Ives Medal. He has been elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, is a senior member of IEEE, and a fellow of OSA and the American Physical Society.

Honorary membership at OSA is given to those who have made unique, seminal contributions to the field of optics. The number of honorary members cannot exceed two-thousandths (2/1000) of the total OSA membership. Election requires the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, based on the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee and the Awards Committee of the Board. For a complete listing of OSA's honorary members, visit OSA's website.

About OSA
Uniting more than 106,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Optical Society of America