Arthur Francis Turner
John N. Howard
Arthur Francis Turner was OSA’s 1968 President and
a pioneer in the field of optical interference coatings.
He earned many accolades for his work, including a
Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Arthur Francis Turner was born in Detroit, Mich., U.S.A., on 8 August
1906. He received a B.S. from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ed experimental physicist H. Rubens,
thus making Turner a direct link to the
beginnings of quantum mechanics and
the studies of blackbody radiation by
Lummer and Pringsheim.
While still in his 20s, he published
a paper with Czerny pointing out the
aberration corrections inherent in the
now famous Czerny-Turner spectrometer
mounting. ;is work went largely forgotten until the Ebert system was rediscovered in 1952. Several years passed before
anyone realized that the Czerny-Turner
system o;ers an even greater opportunity
for aberration correction than does the
now equally famous Ebert-Fastie mounting. It was in Czerny’s laboratory that
Turner first became acquainted with C.
In 1935, Turner accepted a teaching
position at MIT, where he was reunited
with Cartwright. ;e two initiated pioneering research on optical interference
coatings. A paper they authored in 1939
describes some of the earliest work on
stacked quarter-wave films as interference
coatings—a prototype of the sophisticated dielectric film stacks used today as
low-loss laser reflectors. Cartwright and
Turner also developed a technique for
depositing invisible coatings on glass to
reduce unwanted light reflection.
Turner joined the Bausch + Lomb
Optical Company (B+L) in 1939. Under
his direction, the optical physics department led the field of optical coatings
for at least two decades. ;e group’s
breakthroughs included methods for
designing and manufacturing multilayer
film stacks using ZnS, cryolite or MgF2.
;ese stacks were used as antireflection,
narrow bandpass, long- and short-wavelength cuto; filters and suppressed-side-band filters. During World War
II, Turner was involved in the first use
of evaporated films as antireflection
coatings in the United States, and he
developed numerous coatings for military optical instruments.
After the war, Turner’s group at B+L
was largely responsible for adapting
transmission-line theory (previously
developed for microwave research) to
18 | OPN Optics & Photonics News
OSA Historical Archives Arthur Francis Turner
compute the optical behavior of films.
;e first account of this computational
technique was published by P. J. Leur-gans, a former member of his laboratory,
in the 1951 volume of the Journal of the
Optical Society of America. ;is discovery
was of great importance in the thin-film
field because it made computation of the
optical behavior of multilayer films possible by using recursion relations.
Turner developed the prototype
design for the multiple cavity-type
bandpass filter. ;e protocol includes
applying optical tunneling in a bandpass filter, which he refers to as the
“frustrated total reflection” filter. Turner
published the first known work on the
e;ects of mechanical stress in optical
coatings and introduced the concept of
While at B+L, Turner also investigated ways to reduce the heat generated
during motion picture film projection. His group came up with a successful commercial product known as
the “Balcold mirror.” ;is rear-coated
mirror protects film by reflecting nearly
50 percent of the heat. For this contribution, Turner and his group received the
Scientific and Engineering Award from
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences in 1959.
His research e;orts in the 1960s
included designing laser coatings with a