Emil Wolf

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Emil Wolf
Born(1922-07-30)July 30, 1922
DiedJune 2, 2018(2018-06-02) (aged 95)
Alma materBristol University
Known forOptics
Coherence Theory
Wolf effect
Born and Wolf
AwardsFrederic Ives Medal (1978)
Michelson Medal (1980)
Max Born Award (1987)
Marconi Medal (1987)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Edinburgh
University of Manchester
University of Rochester
Doctoral advisorEdward H. Linfoot
Other academic advisorsMax Born
Doctoral studentsGirish Agarwal
M. Suhail Zubairy
Emil Wolf.PNG

Emil Wolf (July 30, 1922 – June 2, 2018)[1] was a Czech-born American physicist who made advancements in physical optics, including diffraction, coherence properties of optical fields, spectroscopy of partially coherent radiation, and the theory of direct scattering and inverse scattering. He was also the author of numerous other contributions to optics.

Life and career[edit]

Wolf was born into a Jewish family in Prague, Czechoslovakia.[2] He was forced to leave his native country when the Germans invaded.[3] After brief periods in Italy and France (where he worked for the Czech government in exile), he moved to the United Kingdom in 1940. He received his B.Sc. in Mathematics and Physics (1945), and Ph.D. in Mathematics from Bristol University, England, in 1948. Between 1951 and 1954 he worked at the University of Edinburgh with Max Born, writing the famous textbook Principles of Optics now usually known simply as Born and Wolf. After a period on the Faculty of the University of Manchester, he moved to the United States in 1959 to take a position at the University of Rochester. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen and was the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics at the University of Rochester. He was president of the Optical Society of America in 1978.[4] Until his death Wolf resided in Cloverwood in Pittsford, New York, with his wife.

Wolf predicted a new mechanism that produces redshift and blueshift, that is not due to moving sources (Doppler effect), that has subsequently been confirmed experimentally (called the Wolf effect). Technically, he found that two non-Lambertian sources that emit beamed energy, can interact in a way that causes a shift in the spectral lines. It is analogous to a pair of tuning forks with similar frequencies (pitches), connected together mechanically with a sounding board; there is a strong coupling that results in the resonant frequencies getting "dragged down" in pitch. The Wolf effect can produce either redshifts or blueshifts, depending on the observer's point of view, but is redshifted when the observer is head-on. A subsequent 1999 article by Sisir Roy et al. have suggested that the Wolf effect may explain discordant redshift in certain quasars.[5]

Wolf remained an active teacher, researcher and author well into his 80s. He died on June 2, 2018, aged 95.[3]


Wolf was a very well known book author in the field of optics. Along with Max Born, he co-wrote Principles of Optics[6] one of the standard textbooks of optics commonly known as "Born and Wolf". In addition he co-authored, with Leonard Mandel, Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics.[7] He also authored Introduction to the Theory of Coherence and Polarization of Light and Selected Works of Emil Wolf with Commentary (World Scientific Publishing, 2001, ISBN 981-281-187-7).[8] Furthermore, he edited the Progress in Optics series of books, for Elsevier, from its inception in 1962.[citation needed]

Awards, memberships and degrees[edit]



  • Honorary member of the Optical Society of America (President in 1978)
  • Honorary member of the Optical Societies of India and Australia

Honorary degrees[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Emil Wolf | in Memoriam | the Optical Society".
  2. ^ Oral History Project: Interview with Emil Wolf
  3. ^ a b Marcotte, Bob (June 4, 2018). "Emil Wolf, pioneer of optical physics, dies at 95". Rochester University. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  4. ^ "Past Presidents of the Optical Society of America". Optical Society of America.
  5. ^ Roy, Sisir; Kafatos, Menas; Datta, Suman (2000). "Shift of spectral lines due to dynamic multiple scattering and screening effect: Implications for discordant redshifts". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 353: 1134. arXiv:astro-ph/9904061. Bibcode:2000A&A...353.1134R.
  6. ^ Born, Max, and Wolf, Emil (1999). Principles of Optics: Electromagnetic Theory of Propagation, Interference and Diffraction of Light (7th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 986. ISBN 9780521642224.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ L. Mandel, and Wolf, Emil (1995). Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521417112.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Selected Works of Emil Wolf with Commentary [eBook]". ebooks.worldscinet.com. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Albert A. Michelson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
  10. ^ "Max Born Award". Optical Society. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  11. ^ "G G Stokes Award". SPIE. Retrieved July 19, 2012.

External links[edit]