May 4, 2001

Powell earns posthumous distinction of optical fellow

Howard Powell, a longtime Lab laser researcher who died last November, has been elected a fellow of the American Optical Society. This is the first time in the society’s history that fellowship has been bestowed posthumously.

Powell was recognized by the society "for seminal contributions to the research and development of high-energy, high-peak-power, and high-average-power solid-state lasers for inertial confinement fusion, military applications and commercial utilization."

Ralph Jacobs of the Physics and Advanced Technologies Directorate sponsored Powell’s fellowship candidacy, which received letters of support from Nobel Laureate Charles Townes, among others.

The society also has organized a Howard Powell Memorial Symposium on High Peak Power Laser Technology to take place May 7 at the society’s Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in Baltimore.

A scholarship in Powell’s name established earlier this year at the California Institute of Technology, where Powell earned his bachelor’s degree in physics, also is being well funded, according to Powell’s wife, Mary.

"Howard was very modest in talking about his achievements, so the recognition he continues to receive from his professional community both surprises and delights me," said Mary Powell, Howard’s wife of 33 years. "I’m really happy to see that he touched so many people all over the world."

She also wishes to thank the Laboratory community for all of its support following Howard’s death.

"Experiencing the love and kindness of Howard’s colleagues and coworkers certainly helped us during a difficult time," Powell said.

"There are many at the Lab whom I wish I could thank personally for all they’ve done, and for their friendship with Howard."

Powell came to the Lab in 1973 and went on to work on both Nova and National Ignition Facility laser projects, as well as the Petawatt, the world’s most powerful laser at the time. He was founder and leader of the Laser Science and Technology Program, and at the time of his death was working with the NIF AD’s office in planning strategic directions for laser science and technology.

Powell was a co-recipient of three R&D 100 Awards for laser research.