Arthur Ashkin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Arthur Ashkin
Born (1922-09-02) September 2, 1922 (age 95)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Alma mater Columbia University, Cornell University
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies

Arthur Ashkin (born September 2, 1922) is an American scientist who worked at Bell Laboratories and Lucent Technologies. He started his work on manipulation of microparticles with laser light in the late 1960s which resulted in the invention of optical tweezers in 1986. He also pioneered the optical trapping process that eventually was used to manipulate atoms, molecules, and biological cells. The key phenomenon is the radiation pressure of light; this pressure can be dissected down into optical gradient and scattering forces. Ashkin has been considered by many as the father of the topical field of optical tweezers.[1][2][3]

Ashkin's work formed the basis for Steven Chu's work on cooling and trapping atoms, which earned Chu the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics.[1][2]

Within various professional society memberships, Ashkin attained the rating of fellow in the Optical Society of America (OSA), the American Physical Society (APS), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He retired from Bell Labs in 1992 after a 40-year career during which he contributed to many areas of experimental physics. He authored many research papers over the years and holds 47 patents. He was recipient of the Joseph F. Keithley Award For Advances in Measurement Science in 2003 and the Harvey Prize in 2004. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1984 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996. Currently, he continues work in his home lab.[1][2]

Besides optical tweezers, Ashkin is also known for his studies in photorefraction, second harmonic generation, and non-linear optics in fibers.[1][2]

Recent advances in physics and biology using optical micromanipulation include achievement of Bose–Einstein condensation in atomic vapors at submillikelvin temperatures, demonstration of atom lasers, and detailed measurements on individual motor molecules.[1][2]

Early years[edit]

Arthur Ashkin was born in Brooklyn, New York (1922)[4] and grew up there. He attended Columbia University and was also a technician for Columbia's Radiation Lab tasked with building magnetrons for U.S. military radar systems. Although he was drafted in his sophomore year during World War II, his status was changed to enlisted reserves, and he continued working in the Columbia University lab. During this period, by Ashkin's own account, three Nobel laureates were in attendance.[1][5]

He finished his course work for his physics degree at Columbia and then attended Cornell University. He studied nuclear physics there. This was during the era of the Manhattan Project and Ashkin's brother, Julius Ashkin, was successfully part of it. This led to Arthur Ashkin's introduction to Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman and others who were at Cornell at the time.[1][5]

He received his PhD at Cornell and then went to work for Bell Labs at the request and recommendation of Sidney Millman. Previously, Mr. Millman was Ashkin's supervisor at Columbia University. At Bell Labs from 1960 to 1961 Ashkin started working in the microwave field, and then switched to laser research. His research and published articles at that time pertained to nonlinear optics, optical fibers, parametric oscillators and parametric amplifiers. Also, at Bell Labs during the 1960s, he was the co-discoverer of the photorefractive effect in the piezoelectric crystal.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h LaserFest. "Arthur Ashkin (biography)" (Web article). Co-partners: American Physical Society, Optical Society, SPIE, and the IEEE Photonics Society. Retrieved 2013-08-13.  "LaserFest – the 50th anniversary of the first laser"
  2. ^ a b c d e McGloin, David; Reid, J.P. (2010). "Forty Years of Optical Manipulation". Optics and Photonics News. 21 (3): 20. doi:10.1364/OPN.21.3.000020. 
  3. ^ Bjorkholm, John (2010). "The Man and His Science". Frontiers in Optics 2010/Laser Science XXVI. doi:10.1364/FIO.2010.STuD1. 
  4. ^ "Arthur Ashkin". The Optical Society. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Bell Labs - Murray Hill (November 1997). "He Wrote the Book on Atom Trapping". Lucent Technologies 2002. Archived from the original on 2005-04-11. Retrieved 2013-08-13. Retired Bell Labs scientist Arthur Ashkin discusses his years as a physicist and how he discovered that light could trap atoms -- the discovery that led Steven Chu and two others to the Nobel Prize 

External links[edit]