Posted tagged ‘Institute of Optics’

Happy Birthday, HST!

April 27, 2010

posted by: Damon Diehl

It’s been twenty years since the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched on April 24, 1990. The Connecticut Post has a really nice article describing how the engineers who designed HST still remain emotionally attached to the project.

As is well known, when the first images arrived from HST, it was discovered that the primary mirror was flawed. The flaw was caused because of an error in the reference optics used by Perkin-Elmer to test the mirror. Rochester, NY has two notable connections to fixing this problem. First, Eastman Kodak’s Commercial and Government Systems Group (now a part of ITT Space Industries) had independently manufactured a back-up mirror for the HST. Unfortunately it was not feasible to replace the primary mirror while the HST was in orbit. Second, Jim Fienup (now a professor at the University of Rochester Institute of Optics) developed “phase retrieval” computer algorithms that were able to diagnose and digitally correct the images Hubble was sending back. This information was later helpful in designing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) that was added to Hubble to correct the spherical aberration.

“Ada Lovelace Day” Feature: Hilda Kingslake

March 24, 2010

posted by: Damon Diehl

This is just under the wire, but Greg Gbur over at Skulls in the Stars put up a nice article on women in science that alerted me that today is “Ada Lovelace Day.”  In the words of the Ada Lovelace Day organizers:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Ada Lovelace is widely regarded as the mother of computer programming, as she was the first person to develop a computational algorithm for Charles Babbage’s analytic engine. As it turns out, women have also been a driving force in the field of optics. I would like to take a moment to highlight someone particularly important to Rochester, NY: Hilda Kingslake.

The name “Kingslake” is famous in optics because of Rudolf Kingslake, but, as it turns out, Rudolf actually married into the field. Hilda Conrady, born 1902, was the very first full-time student in the Technical Optics Department of the Royal College of Science, a unit of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. Furthermore Hilda was already a second-generation optical scientist, as her father was Alexander Eugen Conrady, a professor of optical design. Rather than recount the story of Hilda and Rudolf Kingslake’s amazing 74 year joint career in optics, I will instead point people to a wonderful memorial written by Brian Thompson for the 75th Anniversary of The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. The article is chapter 6 in the book A Jewel in the Crown, edited by Carlos Stroud. (Incidentally, for those considering a career in optics, you may be further tempted by chapter 37, by David Aronstein: “Mmm… Doughnuts“, which traces an Institute of Optics weekly tradition that now spans four decades.)