of an Editor
Keith B. MacAdam
The son of an iconic
JOSA editor reminisces
about his father’s home-grown operation.
David L. MacAdam served as OSA president in 1962-1963 and as the
editor of JOSA from 1964 until 1975
(volumes 54 through 65, before it was
separated into two journals). He was
also my father. He shared thoughts
and observations on vision and color
with me and with my siblings from our
childhoods, and this was doubtless an
important influence on my own path
into physics. So how did my father go
about editing JOSA in the “old days”?
Here’s a peek behind the curtains.
After I left my home in Rochester to
attend college in 1961, my vacant bedroom became the JOSA editorial office.
Editing was a mom-and-pop affair: Our
mother, Muriel F. MacAdam, was Dad’s
staff support at the electric typewriter.
Stacks of submitted manuscripts-in-prog-ress were piled on my bed, and they had
to be shifted around for me so that I could
lie down when I was home during visits
from college and later graduate school.
Rolled-up graphs and artwork shared
the dresser drawers with my socks and
underwear, and yellow-covered issues of
JOSA spilled from the bookcase. Dad
worked on a swivel chair on rollers, and
he could speedily glide from a small
desk on my brother’s side of the room to
the file cabinet to Mom’s elbow at the
mighty Wurlitzer. Near the typewriter,
Keith B. MacAdam JOSA editor D.L. MacAdam with his Kodak Retina Reflex in Rocky Point, Newfoundland, Canada (1968).
she had placed preprinted form letters
for him to sign, along with carbon
paper and colored pencils.
My parents installed a super-sized
mailbox at the front door. There, occasional letters or bills were squeezed
between bulging manila envelopes
and mailing tubes stuffed with JOSA
submissions. The postman received a
nice holiday bonus each year. Their
“referee database” was a box of 3” 3 5”
cards, and Mom’s prodigious memory
for names and key words served as the
search engine. She called herself “a mine
of useless information”—not so useless
in this case.
Dad was a minor photo-bug—a
natural hobby for an Eastman-Kodak
employee who had access to experimental and discounted film. At optics
meetings and conferences, he captured
candid shots of participants, which often
appeared anonymously in the journal,
occupying blank space at the bottom of
Perhaps the best example is a series
of photographs Dad took during the 2nd
Rochester Conference on Coherence
and Quantum Optics. They capture
Peter Franken and Ed Jaynes, who
had just made a bet, with Willis Lamb
as the referee. Franken had wagered
$100.00 that the Lamb shift could not
be proven without quantum theory
and gave Jaynes 10 years to show that
a classical method would suffice. The
pictures show the scientists debating by
a chalkboard; Jaynes paying his stakes
to Lamb; and Art Schawlow asking a
question on the sidelines. They appear
in JOSA, 56, 1148 (August 1966) on
Dad’s “Editor’s Page.” He also used that
page for “school-marming” about when
to use which vs. that and other rules
about written expression.
20 | OPN Optics & Photonics News