Close this search box.

History of the IEEE Photonics Society

With a history that dates back to the 1960’s, our members have achieved much. We are grateful to those who have contributed to our society over the years and laid the foundation for future generations.

During the early part of the 1960’s, quantum electronics was the province of the physicist. Most of the relevant papers published in English appeared in The Physical Review, The Journal of Applied Physics and Applied Physics Letters.

To serve the electrical engineering community, Glen Wade, then Editor of the IEEE Transactions of Electron Devices, added quantum electronics to its area of interest. Eugene I. Gordon was appointed Associate Editor for quantum electronics. In order to stimulate interest, a Special Issue on Quantum Electronics was planned for publication in vol. ED-9, January 1965.

The plans crystallized and by Fall 1964 the issue was ready. Just then, F. Karl Willenbrock, who was a Vice President of the IEEE and later President, and greatly interested in publications, became concerned that the IEEE was not doing enough for its members interested in quantum electronics. He believed that the opportunity to establish an IEEE journal in this area would be diminished by the possible appearance of a commercial journal. He approached Eugene Gordon and Glen Wade concerning the establishment of an Electron Devices Group sponsored publication entitled Transactions on Quantum Electronics. For a variety of reasons it was felt that “Journal” rather than “Transactions” would be more appropriate in the title. Although the group publications were officially “Transactions”, an exception was made.

The Electron Devices Administrative Committee, under Earle Thomas, agreed to support the new journal with the Special Issue on Quantum Electronics forming the basis for the first issue. The first three issues were sent free to all members of the Electron Devices and Microwave Theory and Techniques Groups as well as to a selected list of people active in the QE field.

Robert H. Kingston (Lincoln Labs) and Glen Wade (Cornell) were appointed Co-Editors. The Associate Editors were Amnon Yariv (CalTech) and Eugene Gordon (Bell Labs). The first issue appeared in April 1965. It was dedicated to the cucumber laser described by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels, 1720. Robert W. Hellwarth (Hughes Research Lab) became a Co-Editor in May 1965.

At the time, the Group on Microwave Theory and Techniques became aware of the plans for the new journal. Based on its own interest in microwave techniques applied to optics, it proposed that it become a co-sponsor of the new journal. The Electron Devices Group graciously agreed and beginning with the June 1965 issue it was co-sponsored. In retrospect this proved to be a momentous decision.

In order for two or more Groups to co-sponsor a journal, a council had to be formed. Thus, the Quantum Electronics Council (QEC) was established in 1965 with Gordon as the first Chairperson. The chair was to be alternated biannually between an ED and an MTT Group representative. Representatives from both Groups were members. Incidentally, the publication of a Council can be called a Journal. So the title of the new journal was legitimized.

The new journal quickly became successful in the electrical engineering community. However, as is true to some extent to this day, the physics community tended to its own journals, even when the electrical engineering content of their papers was high. With success came confidence, and in June 1967, the QEC held its first technical meeting, the Conference on Laser Engineering and Applications (CLEA), in Washington, DC. This was designed to be held in the alternate year relative to the International Quantum Electronics Conference, which was physics and research oriented. Gordon was the Chairperson.

The first meeting was highly successful and became the forerunner of the present day annual meeting, CLEO. With a successful journal and a successful meeting, it was not surprising that the Council became the Quantum Electronics and Applications Society (QEAS), under Henry Kressel‘s guidance. This occurred in the year 1977. Kressel was the last Chairman of QEC and first President of the Society. Since then QEAS has prospered under the steady hands of Dean B. AndersonArthur ChesterRichard G. SmithRobert A. BartoliniRichard L. Abrams, Jr., and Peter W. Smith.

The maturity of QEAS was manifest in 1983 with the establishment of the Journal of Lightwave Technology to focus on a subfield of growing importance. The new journal was established under the guidance of a number of Societies, including QEAS, ED, and the Optical Society of America. The cycle had come full turn.

Effective January 1, 1985, the name of the Society was changed to the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (LEOS). The years 1985 and 1986, under the leadership of Robert L. Byer and Gary C. Bjorklund, were a period of rapid growth and organizational evolution for the Lasers and Electro-Optics Society.

In keeping with the explosive growth of the lasers and electro-optics field, LEOS membership increased by more than 65 percent. The CLEO/IQEC and OFC conferences that LEOS cosponsors maintained their worldwide positions of preeminence and continued to set new records in attendance and revenue. Both the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and the Journal of Lightwave Technology continued their traditions of excellence with many fine special issues devoted to particular topics of interest.

During this period, it became evident that LEOS had grown to the point that a full-time executive was required to provide administrative leadership for the Society. After an extensive search and interview process, Dr. Robert T. Wangemann was hired as the first LEOS Executive Officer. Other important organizational changes were the institution of a new Constitution and Bylaws to streamline the operations of the AdCom and the adoption of a five-year business plan to provide a roadmap for the establishment of future new LEOS activities.

LEOS maintained exciting growth during 1987 and 1988 under the leadership of Paul F. Liao and Frederick J. Leonberger, respectively. With excellent coordination between the volunteers and an expanding Executive Office, services and capabilities were increased on many fronts. In the meetings area, OFC and CLEO/IQEC continued to be major successes. After much planning, the first LEOS Annual Meeting was held in November 1988, in conjunction with meetings of other optics and laser societies and with OPTCON. The latter meeting was jointly sponsored by five societies and functioned as a new trade show coupled with an instructional program. All meetings were a huge success. The Executive Office added a Meetings Manager during this period and LEOS subsequently managed the International Semiconductor Laser Conference as well as a number of workshops. In publications, JQE and JLT maintained their preeminent positions with many outstanding issues. William Streifer and Thomas Giallorenzi each retired after six outstanding years as, respectively, JQE and JLT Editors. Approval was obtained to launch a new letters journal, Photonics Technology Letters, in January 1989. A quarterly LEOS Newsletter was started in 1987 and expanded in 1988. LEOS continued its support of C&D Magazine during this period. A new Lasers and Electro-Optics Book Series was started.

Membership continued to grow, passing 7000 in 1988 with 17 active chapters and a number in formation. The AdCom continued to evolve with the formulation of a separate Advisory Committee and Long Range Planning Committee to assist AdCom in its action.

In 1988, 1990 and 1991 under the leadership of Melvin CohenConcetto Giuliano, and Michael Ettenberg, respectively, LEOS continued to expand its services to the members. Photonics Technology Letters became the premier source of up-to-date information in the optoelectronics field, publishing 1156 pages in 1991. Three new LEOS awards were introduced: the LEOS William Streifer Scientific Achievement Award, named after Bill Streifer who passed away in 1990, the LEOS Engineering Achievement Award, and the LEOS Distinguished Service Award. In 1991 the LEOS AdCom was renamed the LEOS Board of Governors, and a volunteer vice presidential structure was introduced to assist the president in managing the expanded activities of LEOS. In addition, the LEOS Summer Topicals, first introduced in 1990, became a great success with four topical meetings in 1991 consisting of 149 paper presentations and 376 attendees.

Steady leadership from Donald Scifres in 1992 and Suzanne Nagel and 1993 steered the Society successfully through times of economic recession and restructuring, maintaining a sound financial condition and preparing the ground for the Society’s increasing globalization. Tetsuhiko Ikegami‘s presidency in 1994 continued the strong theme of service to members, and saw the arrival of Dr. Edward F. Labuda as the Society’s new Executive Director. 1994 also saw the first of two major new LEOS-cosponsored conferences, established as joint collaborative efforts among many societies internationally, CLEO/Europe in Amsterdam. CLEO/ Pacific Rim followed in 1995 during David Miller‘s term of office. 1995 was the debut of a new publication, the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. This journal, concentrating on issues on specific major research topics, was spun off from the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics, which continued its record of outstanding success as a technical journal. With the rapid developments in networks and information technology, the Society also started an electronic Newsletter, launched its World Wide Web page, and prepared for its first publishing of the Society’s journals on CD-ROM.

The globalization of LEOS continued in 1996 with an additional two chapters in Europe and with 45% of the LEOS membership now residing outside the US. To effectively serve this increasing global membership, the volunteer VP structure was modified to include three VPs for Membership and Regional Activities: Americas; Europe, Middle East, Africa; Asia & Pacific. A chapter angel program was initiated, in which each member of the Board of Governors (BoG) was assigned two or more chapters, with the intent that the BoG member be a communication link with the chapter and provide advice and counsel. The first LEOS CD-ROM product was introduced in 1996 and contained the full contents of the 1995 LEOS journals.

The first decade of the LEOS Annual Meeting was celebrated in San Francisco in 1997 and 1998 witnessed several initiatives to improve service to LEOS members and the technical community worldwide. The LEOS Graduate Student Fellowship Program was launched and the 50th LEOS chapter (Ukraine) was formed. To underscore the rapid growth of LEOS membership in Europe and the Pacific Rim, receptions for LEOS members were held in conjunction with CLEO-Europe (Glasgow) and the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) in Madrid. Because both were enthusiastically received, the Board of Governors approved the funds to continue these in 1999 with receptions at CLEO-Pacific Rim and ECOC. In 1998, the BOG also decided to hold its first meeting outside of North America in Nice, France in 2000. As a member service, the presentations of the Plenary speakers at the LEOS Annual were videotaped and made available on the LEOS Web site.

Under the leadership of Hans Melchior in 1999 and Gordon Day in 2000, LEOS moved into the new millennium. The Board of Governors adopted a new mission statement (see page 2), focused on increasing services to members and the professional community, worldwide. Members began to receive an annual CD-ROM containing the complete texts of the most recent year’s journals and, even more significantly, free online access to journal archives back to 1988. Steps were taken to extend archival access to the first year of publication. A new LEOS web portal was developed to provide easy access to these and other new electronic services. A new endowed award, the Aaron Kressel Award, was established to recognize individuals whose contributions to device technology have had a major impact. The number of Distinguished Lecturers was doubled to eight, permitting an extension of the term to two years, and providing greater opportunities for chapters to schedule speakers. The number of Graduate Student Fellowships was doubled to twelve, to be distributed internationally. Continuing to recognize the globalization of LEOS, the Board moved the 2000 annual meeting off shore, to Puerto Rico, with great success, and chose Glasgow, Scotland, as the site for the 2002 annual meeting. An Awards Reception was added to the agenda for the LEOS Annual Meeting, to increase the visibility of awards. These initiatives were enabled in part by the success of LEOS-sponsored and co-sponsored conferences, most notably the Optical Fiber Communications Conference, which began to grow dramatically. And LEOS membership also began to grow more rapidly; in 2000 LEOS became the fastest growing of all IEEE Societies. All of these developments were enhanced and nurtured by the energy and enthusiasm of Dr. Paul Shumate, a longtime LEOS volunteer, who joined the LEOS staff in 1999 as our fourth Executive Director.

Philip Anthony (2001) led the Society in continuing and enhancing programs that expanded LEOS’ impact during the height of the fiber-optic telecommunications boom, with membership increasing to a peak of 9600. Conference attendance rose dramatically and journal submissions with commercial implications increased. To speed the dissemination of information and to continue the push to electronic publishing, Photonics Technology Letters and the Journal of Lightwave Technology adopted rapid on-line access of accepted papers. Access to journals since 1988 and conference proceedings since 1997 were added to the LEOS Digital Archives in the on-going effort to increase benefits to LEOS membership. The Board approved the establishment of a new LEOS-sponsored IEEE Technical Field Award in Photonics.

Under the Presidency of Milton Chang (2002), LEOS established an annual Chapter Retreat and Technical Committee Retreat. Both were held at the LEOS Annual Meeting which, for the first time, was held outside North America (Glasgow, UK). Formal processes were put in place to document the outcomes of Long-Term strategic meetings to provide continuity from year to year. The Board approved a new outreach program, “Research Opportunities for Primary and Secondary School Teachers”.

To encourage student participation in LEOS, G.D. Khoe (2003) initiated the EYB (Explore Your Business) and EYS (Explore Your Science) programs, administered through LEOS Chapters. The Distinguished Lecturer Awards were broadened to include Distinguished Entrepreneurs. In publications, LEOS staff assumed responsibility for managing the Sensors Journal and the Board approved the Display Journal as a new initiative. A DVD-ROM Journal Collection that included LEOS journals from 1965 to 2002 was made available. The content and look of the LEOS Newsletter was enhanced, with the first color issue printed in August 2003. Khoe also initiated the discussion of a two-year term for the presidency of LEOS, which was approved by the Board in 2004.

Scott Hinton was the first LEOS President to serve a two year term. In his first year, 2004, LEOS led the effort to start the new IEEE/Optica Prublishing Group Journal of Display Technology and was involved in the acquisition of the National Fiber Optics Engineers Conference by OFC. The Membership committee was also reorganized to become more effective to help the members understand the services offered by LEOS and to improve both the recruitment and retention of LEOS members. The President-elect was made the chair of this committee. The LEOS Annual Meeting was also held outside of the continental United States in Puerto Rico. Finally, the name of the Lasers in Medicine and Biology Technical Committee was changed to the Biophotonics Technical Committee. In 2005, the globalization trend continued with the LEOS Annual Meeting being held for the first time in Region 10, in Sydney, Australia. The LEOS Annual Meeting also extended its offering to students by the introduction of a Careers in Research Forum.

During the Presidency of Alan Willner in 2006 and 2007, several new initiatives were begun that highlighted our growth in the international arena and our commitment to the professional growth of our younger members. Many new LEOS Local Chapters were started in technologically emerging countries, such as China, India, and Mexico.  Furthermore, LEOS began sponsorship of major conferences in China, and we started a second series of topical meeting (i.e., Summer and Winter Series) such that we could host one inside North America and one outside. Our emphasis on our youth was evident in the following activities: (a) a new annual LEOS Young Investigator Award (<35 years of age) was instituted and sponsored by General Photonics, (b) students were given free admission to all conference short courses at our major conferences (Annual, CLEO, & OFC), (c) a LEOS Educators Program was initiated at our Annual Meeting, and (d) a member from IEEE GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade) was added as an official representative to LEOS’ Board of Governors.  Due to our excellent staff, our finances were strong and reserves grew dramatically.  Finally, LEOS proposed the launching of a new on-line-only journal (IEEE Photonics Journal), a first for the IEEE.  Rich Linke joined the Society as its fifth Executive Director during Alan Willner’s term.  Rich worked with Alan and succeeding Presidents to implement the Society’s name change, launch the on-line journal, and lead the staff in support of all Society activities.

As the 29th President of the Society (2008 and 2009) John Marsh successfully promoted the adoption of its new name: the “IEEE Photonics Society” along with a redesigned logo. John helped the Society to develop a 6-pronged strategic plan and made significant progress toward all six goals:
#1 (Technical Affairs) The Society redesigned this Vice Presidential area to improve its effectiveness and increased the scope of activities in new areas including photovoltaics and biophotonics.
#2 (Image) – A directed campaign was carried out to promote the new name and logo and a major website redesign was initiated.
#3 (Outreach) – The Society joined LaserFest as Founding Partner and increased international outreach to India and China among other countries.
#4 (Member Value) Member lounges were established at OFC, CLEO, ECOC, and the Society’s Annual Meeting.  A membership increase reversed a 7-year declining trend.
#5 (Publications) The Society successfully launched the rapid publication online-only Photonics Journal which quickly achieved the #1 ranking among IEEE journals in submission-to-publication time at 5.9 weeks.  The Journal of Optical Communication and Networking, a joint project with Optica and the IEEE Communications Society, was also launched under John’s Presidency.
 #6 (Conferences) – John initiated a major conference leadership restructuring including a new technical co-sponsorship approval processes and saw the successful launch of the ACP conference in Shanghai with Optica and SPIE. He successfully proposed an independent review of the CLEO conference and identified a consultant team to perform the review. This led to major changes in the structure of the conference including the addition of the CLEO-Applications and Technology sector.

Jim Coleman, (2010 and 2011) our 30th President, streamlined the Governance of the Society by moving many reports from the Board of Governors meeting agendas to an emailed “info-packet” in order to allow time at the BoG meetings for discussion of the pressing issues. He revised the role of the VP of Technical Affairs to provide the Society with a window into new fields not already covered by our conferences and journals. This led to the launch of our new “Optical Interconnects Conference” and the introduction of our tagline “Transforming Science into Technology”.  He renamed our “Annual Meeting” the “IEEE Photonics Conference” as part of a move to broaden the conference, introduced the acronyms “IPS” and “IPC” for the Society and our flagship conference, and launched remote conference attendance via online streaming of captured live presentations. Jim modified our method of nominating and selecting winners of our four Society awards to improve the fairness and openness of the process and, finally, stressed the importance of rapid time-to-publication in our journals and encouraged our move to Open Access.

Hideo Kuwahara served as our 31st President in 2012 and 2013. He was the 5th president from outside of the US, further enhancing the globalization of IPS. He participated in several TAB and IEEE activities including the Future Directions Committee and sought to identify and expand new areas of photonics technology by maintaining relations with several IEEE Councils. During this period, the society finances were much improved through positive efforts in conferences and publications and also by more efficient use of staff headcount. In Publication activities, the Photonics Journal became IEEE’s first fully open access technical publication in 2012 and quickly became the model for other IEEE OA journals. The impact factor of JSTQE reached its highest-ever level, exceeding 4.0. Our VP-Technical Affairs began maintenance of a “Hot Topic List” of new photonics technology areas which IPS conferences and publications did not cover to help prepare for future IPS activities. The Photonics society Field of Interest statement was also rewritten, bringing it up-to-date, and was approved by TAB. In the membership area an outreach effort was started effectively utilizing several evolving social media outlets and a new e-Newsletter was initiated as a part of the drive to reverse a recent trend in membership decline. A special outreach activity in India, including a bi-annual workshop, was also initiated in 2013. Collaborations with outside organizations were promoted and the National Photonics Initiative (NPI) was successfully launched to educate policy makers and the public on the important role that photonics plays in our economy and our daily lives. Finally, IPS joined with a number of other optics and photonics societies to propose the 2015 International Year of Light which was approved by the UN in December of 2013.

Dalma Novak, our 32nd President, led the Society during 2014 – 2015.  In 2014 she oversaw major changes in the Society’s Executive Office: Rich Linke retired, Chris Jannuzzi was appointed as the new Executive Director, and Doug Razzano was promoted to Associate Executive Director.  In the same year she supported the restructuring of the Society’s Membership Council (under the leadership of VP of Membership, Paul Juodawlkis) and initiated a number of new member engagement and outreach programs.  At the local level, to better support and foster the activities of the Society’s Chapters, Chapter Leadership Forums were organized at our major conferences around the world.  To strengthen the Society’s diversity mission, a Women in Photonics (WiP) program was launched to support the participation, engagement and advancement of women in the photonics community.  The arrival of 2015 ushered in several significant events for the Society that were celebrated and honored throughout the year: the International Year of Light (IYL), the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of JQE, and five decades since the creation of the QEC which eventually led to the formation of the Society.  Over 100 IYL events organized by our Chapters around the world focused on public awareness and education about the importance of light and optical technologies.  The Society’s humanitarian IYL initiatives included partnering with Solar Aid to help support the eradication the kerosene lamp in Africa and the sponsorship of the first-prize winning Stevens Institute of Technology’s entry in the 2015 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.  2015 also saw an increased emphasis on programs for students and young professionals and the year ended with the Society experiencing positive membership growth.

Kent Choquette, the 33rd IEEE Photonics Society President, led our community from 2016 through 2017. Kent contributed to many improvements in Society governance processes including implementing a mid-year Board of Governors conference call (tele-BoG); sharing the Society’s best financial best practices with other IEEE Technical Activities Board operating units including increased financial transparency; integrating IEEE Future Directions Committee topics into Society leadership structure (AdHoc Committees); pushing for the creation of an Industry Advisory Committee; and, upping the frequency of engagement surveys to address concerns of Society membership. He helped improve relationships with many photonics and optics community partners such as the International Commission for Optics, strengthening interaction with AIM Photonics; integrating Standards into Society activities, as well as being appointed representative to the ITRS 2.0 Heterogeneous Integration Roadmap. He also supported the legacy of the International Year of Light as it transitioned to the International Day of Light. The dissemination of grants expended under Kent’s tenure in the creation of Educational Seed Grants for Chapters (targeting 10 chapter-related events per year), and the increased scope and number of Graduate Student / Women in Photonics Travel Grants, especially with the launch of the IEEE Photonics Fund in partnership with the IEEE Foundation. Kent reinforced the creation of “Educate the Educator” Sessions tasked Membership Council to champion STEM Outreach/Activities. The expansion of the inverted pub-to-conference practice supported growth in the Society’s conferences and publications. He buoyed the transition to a new Photonics Society website and oversaw the launch of a new Society webinar program.

Chennupati Jagadish became the 34th President of the IEEE Photonics Society, leading us through 2018 and 2019. President Jagadish dedicated himself to ensuring the vitality, inclusiveness and relevance of our core activities, all while working to expand and enable dynamic and diverse communities to engage with one another all around the world.  He, with the help of our Board of Governors,  created Diversity and Globalization Committees to ensure our Society is continually committed to creating opportunities that support the participation, engagement and advancement for all in the photonics and optics community. He also helped the Society to create an Industry Engagement Committee, and Education Committee to increase our efforts and value to members in these areas. In his tenure, the Photonics Society saw a 6% increase in membership, started 34 new chapters worldwide, established 2 new awards; the Photonics Society Laser Instrumentation Award and the Technical Skills Educator Award, and formed new Sister Society partnerships.  Jagadish also assisted the Society in growing its mentorship programs for students and young professionals as well as humanitarian initiatives to bring solar solutions to remote regions of the world. Both causes that aided him as a young student and researcher. President Jagadish also guided the Society through a major change in staff leadership, as Doug Razzano became the Society’s Executive Director in August of 2018.

Carmen Menoni served as the 35th President of the IEEE Photonics Society, leading us through the unprecedented term of 2020 and 2021. President Menoni dedicated herself to ensuring the relevance and quality of our core activities and increasing the visibility and reach of our services around the world, all while helping the Society navigate through the lasting effects of the pandemic. In her tenure, the Photonics Society successfully converted all our conferences to virtual events, ensuring the opportunity for researchers to continue presenting their work and publish. Society membership increased more than 16% as we continued to grow and build new chapters worldwide, offering services such as the Distinguished Lecturer series and mentorship programs virtually. She, with the help of our Board of Governors, created the Professional and Technical Development Council to help the Society oversee program development in the areas of standards, industry engagement, emerging technologies, young professionals, and professional advancement. She also led the creation of an IEEE Photonics Conference (IPC) Steering committee to improve long range planning for our flagship event.