Memorial Tributes: Volume 27
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  • ARTHUR A. OLINER (1921-2013)



    ARTHUR AARON OLINER, world-renowned for his pioneering contributions to the understanding of electromagnetics, died Sept. 9, 2013, at age 92. He was born March 25, 1921, in Shanghai and immigrated with his family to the United States before World War II.

    He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College (1941) and a Ph.D. from Cornell University (1946), both in physics. After graduation he joined the faculty of the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering). While at Polytechnic, he was mentored by prominent electro-physicist Nathan Marcuvitz (NAE 1978). Oliner became head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electrophysics (1966-74) and director of the Microwave Research Institute (1967-82). Over the course of his career, Oliner was a consultant to IBM, Raytheon, Boeing, Hughes, and Rockwell and a director of Merrimac Industries Inc. He was also on the editorial boards of Electronics Letters and the volume series Advances in Microwaves (Academic Press). He retired in 1990 as an emeritus professor and was named a presidential fellow of Polytechnic.

    Motivated by the success of early radar systems during World War II, he devoted much of his research to their continued progress by, for example, developing simple and systematic ways to understand and analyze microwave circuits and electromagnetic propagation and radiation. He is perhaps best known for his work on leaky waves, which involve radiation in the surrounding medium of otherwise guided waves. He used leaky-wave concepts to explain Woods anomalies in optical gratings, predict radiation by a class of distributed antennas, and evaluate the performance of phased array radar antennas and cross talk in microstrip circuits. This work is described in his many published papers and three books.

    In recognition of his accomplishments, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1991. He was also a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, as well as a Guggenheim fellow. He received the Balthasar van der Pol Gold Medal of the International Union of Radio Science in 1990 for “contributions to theory of guided waves, especially leaky waves, and novel radiating structures”; the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Heinrich Hertz Medal in 2000, given for outstanding achievements in electromagnetic waves; and an honorary doctorate from the University of Rome in 2003.

    At a time before computers, it was essential to understand the physical basis of wave phenomena in order to create relatively simple formulas to predict system performance. Professor Oliner was a master at seeing through to the simplest and most intuitive physical model and mathematics to represent a complex phenomenon. His use of simple physical models and organized presentations made understanding and appreciation of the subject matter enjoyable for students and colleagues. His co-authors learned from his insistence on providing a clear and meticulous description of their work. His graciousness in dealing with all his associates and peers was legendary.

    Professor Oliner’s wife of 67 years, Frieda, passed away on March 13, 2013. He is survived by two children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.