National Academy of Engineering, Volume 22
Membership Directory
PublisherNational Academies Press
ReleasedOctober 18, 2019
ISBN 978-0-309-49640-7
Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 22

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  • IVAN P. KAMINOW 1930–2013


    IVAN PAUL KAMINOW, a luminary in the photonics community, passed away in San Francisco on December 18, 2013, at age 83. For more than 50 years he was at the forefront of light-wave technology research that helped bring about a telecommunications revolution. His contributions are evident in the ongoing activities of researchers, engineers, and companies working in the field.

    Born March 3, 1930, in Union City, New Jersey, Ivan received his BS from Union College (1952) and his MS from the University of California, Los Angeles (1954), both in electrical engineering. He earned a PhD from Harvard University in 1960; his thesis, under C. Lester Hogan and later R. Victor Jones, was on ferromagnetic resonance at microwave frequencies and high pressures.

    In 1954 he began a 42-year career at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ, where perhaps his greatest technical legacy is the electro-optic modulator and its materials. His achievements also included the creation of titanium-diffused lithium niobate modulators and other integrated optics, development of birefringent optical fibers, analysis of Raman scattering in ferroelectrics, and demonstration of semiconductor laser technologies such as the distributed Bragg reflector and ridge waveguide. Beginning in 1984 he led the photonic networks and components research department. He and his team worked on wavelength-division multiplexed local and wide area networks and on components such as a fiber Fabry-Perot resonator, an arrayed waveguide grating router, and an erbium-doped fiber amplifier.

    Among his best-known books are An Introduction to Electrooptic Devices (Academic Press, 1974) and the second through sixth editions in the Optical Fiber Telecommunications (OFT) series (Academic Press/Elsevier, 1988–2013), which chronicled the exciting evolution of the field of optical fiber communications by the R&D community. Working on the editions brought Ivan great joy and enabled him to use his love of and skill in writing, to help explore the most significant technical issues, and to interact with the best people in the field. The book series itself is a tribute to his effort, leadership, wisdom, and insight. He coedited three of the books with another luminary, Tingye Li; they were lifelong friends and colleagues and shared much affection and admiration for each other.

    Ivan received many awards for his contributions to photonics, including the 1995 Charles Hard Townes Award and the 2011 Frederic Ives Medal from the Optical Society (OSA), the 2010 Photonics Award and 2013 Edison Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the 1997 John Tyndall Award from IEEE/OSA. After he retired from Bell Labs, he served as an IEEE congressional fellow in 1996, and in 1999 he was a senior science advisor to OSA.

    He enjoyed his last years living in San Francisco with his wife, Florence, and being an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he took great pleasure interacting with the bright, curious, and friendly students.

    Reflecting on his career, Ivan considered himself very lucky to have been at Bell Labs during its heyday. He was fond of saying, “Over the years, I have benefited from many happy coincidences and lucky choices. Indeed, luck plays an important part in any career. Still, luck is not enough. I had to be in the right places at the right times in order to have a chance to seize these opportunities.” 

    It was always refreshing listening to Ivan; he had a unique and insightful way of understating things. Many people were fortunate to be able to learn from his wisdom and to interact with him personally.

    Ivan’s contributions to the optical fiber communications community and technical field were monumental and will not be forgotten. In addition to his illustrious achievements, his leadership, vision, gentleness, inquisitiveness, love of learning and teaching, and intellectual honesty were hallmarks of his personality and career. They will be most remembered by his friends and colleagues, who miss him greatly.

    He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Florence (née Fischer), children Paula Kaminow and her sons, Rafael and Gabriel Toledo; Leonard Kaminow and his wife, Maria Mazorra, and children Sarah, Nicolas, and Maura; and Ellen (James) DiMatteo and children Joseph and Sophia.

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