Editor-in-Chief Grover Swartzlander announces special OSA Centennial activities this year at JOSA.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

This year we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Optical Society (OSA). Whether you are an author, reader, or reviewer of this Journal, you are an intrinsic part of its, and OSA’s, grand history and thus OSA will be saluting you throughout the year. The Society will be holding Centennial celebrations all year long, culminating with the annual October meeting, Frontiers in Optics, in Rochester, New York—the birthplace of the Society. I hope to see you there or at another venue in 2016. The whole year will be a great opportunity to look toward the future of optics and OSA, as well as reflect on our shared optical past.

Anniversaries are occasions to look back and assess our place in history. As all good authors know, a comprehensive review of past accomplishments can reveal insights that illuminate roadmaps into the future. I encourage you to skip back in time and examine some of the earliest papers in the Journal of the Optical Society of America and its spinoffs, JOSA A and JOSA B.

For example, the Journal’s very first paper in 1917, “Opportunities in Research” by Richtmyer [1] (OSA’s third president), invited authors to include a statement about open problems in their papers, thereby motivating promising young scientists. This farsighted encouragement, which portended an exciting future of optics-related research, was published in the midst of World War I. Although the adversaries laid down their arms a year later, the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic that followed took more lives than that Great War. This turmoil explains why the Journal was not published in 1918. The following year, Wright (OSA’s second president) published a fascinating retrospective on the importance of optical-quality glass titled “War-Time Development of the Optical Industry” [2].

Many of the early JOSA contributors were, like OSA’s founders, located near Rochester (then, as now, a major optics center), where photography and optical instrumentation were topics of great interest. The continuous development of high-sensitivity, high-resolution films at Kodak allowed astronomers such as Edwin Hubble to unveil the amazing vastness of the universe.

During those early years the quantum revolution was well underway, so it’s not surprising to find JOSA papers related to that field as far back as 1919. The May 1922 issue of JOSA includes four papers on quantum mechanics, including one by the renowned scientist Sommerfeld [3] (who may have been the first author working outside the U.S. to publish a paper in JOSA).

The topic of relativity first appeared in JOSA in 1921, as did papers on x-rays. Overall, the 1920s brought many discoveries as well as pivotal social changes. Women gained the right to vote across the United States. Mussolini seized power in Italy, Lenin formed the Soviet Union, and Ataturk abolished the Ottoman Empire. The electronic television and talking movies were produced. Penicillin was discovered, and the first liquid-fueled rockets were launched. In 1929, the universe was found to be expanding and world stock markets crashed.

The Journal flourished during the 1920s, with an average of 130 articles per year covering most areas of optics, including history, astronomy, advanced instrumentation, physiological optics, light sources, spectroscopy, materials and crystals, and many other contemporary topics. In addition to full-length articles, JOSA published short notices such as one by Darrow in 1923 [4], summarizing the Russian experiment by Kapzov on a topic we now call “photonic crystals.” Then, as now, the world was a complex evolving social system, where science strived to provide all humanity respite from troubles and confidence in our intellectual capacity to reach beyond our primal selves.

In 1983, the Society took a hard look at the Journal and the large number of papers it was publishing and determined that, to better meet the needs of authors and readers, it would split the Journal into two titles—JOSA A and JOSA B. With the birth of JOSA B in January 1984 came the opportunity for authors to emphasize their research on fundamental aspects of the interaction of light with matter, including quantum optics, nonlinear optics, laser physics, advanced optical materials, and optical physics. For readers too, there was now a place to look for articles in these areas. Over time, other topics have flourished in JOSA B, like atom optics, nanophotonics, photonic crystals, THz optics, metamaterials, and ultrafast phenomena. In this way, the Journal evolves with our dynamic field. Like its predecessor, JOSA B has published seminal research in its almost 35-year history. Since 1984, there have been over 6800 papers published on lasers, 2400 papers on nonlinear optics, and 2000 papers on quantum optics. Some highlighted topics from last year include quantum entanglement and quantum key distribution, radiation pressure and trapping, solitons, vortices, left-handed materials and plasmonics, nonlinear and nano photonics, optical fibers, quantum optics, slot waveguides, x-rays, metasurfaces, and the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox.

I hope you will enjoy some of the exciting Centennial activities this year. We will be launching a special JOSA website to contribute to the celebrations. It will feature a variety of new and historical content from JOSA, JOSA A, and JOSA B. To honor and thank those who have helped guide the Journal since its inception, we will have a special section dedicated to all current and former editors-in-chief and topical editors. Additionally, under the editorial leadership of Prof. Prem Kumar (Northwestern University), we will be publishing several Editor’s Pick article collections that will highlight papers from key topical areas in JOSA B and we will have several invited perspective pieces from influential authors who will review the way forward for some of those key topics.

On behalf of the entire JOSA B editorial board, I wish you many successes in OSA’s Centennial year.

Grover Swartzlander, Jr.
Editor-in-Chief, JOSA B
Rochester Institute of Technology


1. F. K. Richtmyer, “Opportunities in research,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 1, 1–3 (1917). [CrossRef]  

2. F. E. Wright, “War-time development of the optical industry,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 2, 1–7 (1919). [CrossRef]  

3. A. Sommerfeld, “The evaluation of quantum integrals,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 6, 251–253 (1922). [CrossRef]  

4. K. K. Darrow, “The diffraction of Hertzian waves by a space lattice,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 7, 286 (1923). [CrossRef]  


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  1. F. K. Richtmyer, “Opportunities in research,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 1, 1–3 (1917).
  2. F. E. Wright, “War-time development of the optical industry,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 2, 1–7 (1919).
  3. A. Sommerfeld, “The evaluation of quantum integrals,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 6, 251–253 (1922).
  4. K. K. Darrow, “The diffraction of Hertzian waves by a space lattice,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 7, 286 (1923).

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