Allen Taflove

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Allen Taflove
Allen Taflove photo 2012.jpg
Residence Evanston, IL
Nationality American
Fields Electrical Engineering, Finite-difference time-domain method
Institutions Northwestern University
Alma mater Northwestern University
Notable awards 2014 IEEE Electromagnetics Award

Allen Taflove is a full professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering, since 1988. Since 1972, he has pioneered basic theoretical approaches, numerical algorithms, and applications of finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) computational solutions of Maxwell's equations. He coined the descriptors "finite difference time domain" and "FDTD" in the 1980 paper, "Application of the finite-difference time-domain method to sinusoidal steady-state electromagnetic penetration problems," IEEE Trans. Electromagnetic Compatibility, vol. 22, pp. 191–202, Aug. 1980 doi:10.1109/TEMC.1980.303879. In 1990, he was the first person to be named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in the FDTD area. Prof. Taflove is the recipient of the 2014 IEEE Electromagnetics Award with the following citation: "For contributions to the development and application of finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) solutions of Maxwell's equations across the electromagnetic spectrum."


Prof. Taflove received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Northwestern University in 1971, 1972, and 1975, respectively.

FDTD Computational Electrodynamics[edit]

Since about 2000, FDTD techniques have emerged as a primary means to computationally model many scientific and engineering problems dealing with electromagnetic wave interactions with material structures. Current FDTD modeling applications range from near-DC (ultralow-frequency geophysics involving the entire Earth-ionosphere waveguide) through microwaves (radar signature technology, antennas, wireless communications devices, digital interconnects, biomedical imaging/treatment) to visible light (photonic crystals, nanoplasmonics, solitons, microscopy and lithography, and biophotonics). At least 28 commercial FDTD software suites and 16 free-software/open-source or closed-source FDTD projects are available. To a large degree, all of these software constructs derive directly from FDTD techniques first reported by Prof. Taflove and his students over the past 40 years.

Publications and citations[edit]

In 1995, Prof. Taflove authored the textbook/research monograph, Computational Electrodynamics: The Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method. In 1998, he edited the research monograph, Advances in Computational Electrodynamics: The Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method. Subsequently, he and Prof. Susan Hagness of the University of Wisconsin-Madison expanded and updated the 1995 book in a year-2000 second edition, and then further expanded and updated the 2000 second edition in a 2005 third edition. In 2013, Prof. Taflove and Dr. Ardavan Oskooi of Kyoto University and Prof. Steven G. Johnson of MIT edited the research monograph, Advances in FDTD Computational Electrodynamics: Photonics and Nanotechnology.

As of Jan. 20, 2017, in addition to the books noted above, Prof. Taflove had authored or co-authored a total of 27 articles or chapters in books and magazines, 146 refereed journal papers, and 14 U.S. patents. In 2002, he was named to the original ISI highly cited researcher list of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). His books, journal papers, and U.S. patents have received a total of 33,832 citations according to Google Scholar®,[1] and his h-index is reported as either 62 (Google Scholar) or 45 (Thomson Reuters™ Web of Science™).

According to a Google Scholar search conducted in September 2012 by the Institute of Optics of the University of Rochester, Prof. Taflove's Computational Electrodynamics: The Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method is the 7th most-cited book in physics, with an updated total of 16,446 Google Scholar citations as of Jan. 20, 2017.

The descriptors "finite difference time domain" and "FDTD" coined by Prof. Taflove in 1980 have since become widely used, having appeared in this exact form in approximately 100,000 and 195,000 Google Scholar search results, respectively, as of Jan. 20, 2017.


Beginning in 2003, Prof. Taflove has collaborated with Prof. Vadim Backman of Northwestern University's Biomedical Engineering Department in research aimed at the minimally invasive detection of early-stage human cancers of the colon, pancreas, lung, and ovaries. The techniques being pursued are based upon a spectroscopic microscopy analysis of light backscattered from histologically normal tissue located away from a neoplastic lesion in what has been termed the field effect. This may lead to a new paradigm in cancer screening where, for example, lung cancer could be reliably detected by analyzing a few cells brushed from the interior surface of a person's cheek. On May 5, 2008, a large collaboration headed by Prof. Backman (with Prof. Taflove as a co-investigator) was awarded a five-year, $7.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue this biophotonics technology to develop a noninvasive test for population-wide colon cancer screening.

FDTD modeling has helped establish the fundamental physics foundation of Prof. Backman's spectroscopic microscopy technique for early detection of human cancers. Work has progressed from the early FDTD studies reported in Dec. 2008 in Proc. National Academy of Sciences USA to the analytical and FDTD modeling advances reported in July 2013 in Physical Review Letters. The latter paper rigorously shows that spectroscopic microscopy permits determining the nature of deeply subdiffraction three-dimensional refractive-index fluctuations of a linear, label-free dielectric medium in the far zone. Using visible light, this means that statistical fluctuations of intracellular media as fine as 20 nm can be characterized. The resulting wide range of distance scales that can be characterized within a cell may permit correlations to be developed appropriate for field-effect detection of a wide variety of early-stage cancers with clinically useful sensitivity and specificity.

Federal court case[edit]

In 2010 and 2011, Prof. Taflove and his co-defendant, Shih-Hui (Gilbert) Chang, a former Ph.D. student, won four consecutive decisions in the U.S. Federal courts in a case initiated in July 2007 and then pursued through the appeals process by two plaintiffs who questioned the originality of some of the Taflove-Chang publications. Specifically, Taflove and Chang first won a summary judgment by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and subsequently won a denial of the plaintiffs' request for reconsideration of the summary judgment by the same U.S. District Court. Then, Taflove and Chang won a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirming the judgment of the U.S. District Court. Subsequently, Taflove and Chang won a denial of the plaintiffs' petition for rehearing, and for rehearing en banc by the same U.S. Court of Appeals.

On April 9, 2010, the District Court ordered the plaintiffs to pay $34,869.76 in costs to Taflove and Chang. On December 20, 2010, the District Court ordered the plaintiffs to also pay $745,582 in legal fees to Taflove and Chang. Regarding the latter, the District Court stated:[2]

"Having taken these factors into account, there can be no doubt that defendants are entitled to attorneys’ fees. The strength of defendants’ case is obvious. This suit was not a "toss-up" that might have been resolved in favor of either party; rather, defendants prevailed on each of plaintiffs’ claims at the summary judgment stage. Moreover, consideration of the amount of relief obtained in the litigation also strongly favors defendants."[2]

"The Seventh Circuit has gone "so far as to suggest . . . that the prevailing party in a copyright case in which the monetary stakes are small should have a presumptive entitlement to an award of attorneys’ fees," and that when "the prevailing party is the defendant, who by definition receives not a small award but no award, the presumption in favor of awarding fees is very strong." Id. at 437. Given that defendants received no award as a result of the litigation, they are entitled to this presumption."[2]

"Beyond these two most important factors, other considerations further support the defendants’ entitlement to fees. There is significant evidence, for example, that the suit was motivated in key part by personal animosity."[2]

University level textbooks[edit]


  • 2010 Chen-To Tai Distinguished Educator Award of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society, with the following citation: "For his educational activities and publications, and his impact on undergraduate and graduate students."
  • 2014 IEEE Electromagnetics Award, with the following citation: "For contributions to the development and application of finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) solutions of Maxwell's equations across the electromagnetic spectrum."

See also[edit]

The following article in Nature Milestones: Photons which illustrates the historical significance of the Finite-difference time-domain method and Prof. Taflove's research as related to Maxwell's equations:

The Google Scholar® search conducted in Sept. 2012 by the Institute of Optics of the University of Rochester for the 12 most-cited books in physics:

Prof. Taflove's interview, "Numerical Solution," on pages 5 and 6 of the January 2015 focus issue of Nature Photonics honoring the 150th anniversary of the publication of Maxwell's equations:


External links[edit]