Max Herzberger wins the Frederic Ives Medal

In 1962 Max Herzberger was awarded the Frederic Ives Medal by the Optical Society of America at its meeting in Rochester. The medal was presented to Herzberger by David Lewis MacAdam (1910-1998), President of the Optical Society, at the Society's banquet on 4 October. The citation for the award was read by Professor Kenneth Neil Ogle (1902-1968), Chairman, Biophysics Section, Mayo Clinic. It was published in J. Optical Soc. Amer. 53 (6) (1963), 657-658:

I take great pleasure in being able to present to you tonight, on behalf of the 1962 Frederic Ives Medal Committee, Dr Max Herzberger, of the Eastman Kodak Company, whom we have selected by unanimous vote to receive the honour.

Dr Herzberger is an outstanding mathematical scientist who has devoted his professional life to the field of optics and optical image formation by lens systems. I have known Dr Herzberger almost from the time he came to this country. I felt I knew him even earlier, during my struggle to read and understand his well-known book, Stralhlenoptik, published in 1931.

Dr Herzberger has had such an unusually rich and full life that I can only mention here a few of those events which influenced him and made him the scientist he is. He was born about the turn of the century in Charlottenburg, Germany. At the age of eleven he showed unusual mathematical talent. This talent was so great that after the first year, when he had mastered the high school curriculum in mathematical studies (which at that time in Germany included calculus), he was excused from class attendance and required only to take the examinations at the end of each year. Although it was against the wishes of his father, after graduating from the Schiller Real Gymnasium he decided on a career in mathematics. He attended Berlin University and received his Ph.D. in mathematics, Magna Con laude, in 1932. As a student at the University, he had the unusual good fortune to study under, and become the life-long friend of, some of the great scientists and thinkers of our time. In the field of physics he had such teachers as H. Rubens, Max Planck, Max von Laue, and Albert Einstein. In mathematics and philosophy his teachers were equally prominent, though they are less well known in this country. His friendship with Dr Einstein is well known to most of us. It was a friendship that continued until Dr Einstein's death.

Dr Herzberger had written that the great inflation in Germany following the first World War forced him to seek employment in industry - especially since he wanted to get married. He chose the optical industry because he thought that in this field mathematical knowledge would count more than laboratory experience. Until 1934, then, he worked in succession with the old optical firm of Emil Busch, the Leitz Company, and the Zeiss Works. At Zeiss he became mathematical assistant to the director, and there he devoted most of his time to the theoretical aspects of lens design. It was there also that he became a colleague and friend of Dr Hans Boegehold, with whom he frequently collaborated.

With the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, he was forced from his position; he escaped with his wife and three children to Holland. After a short period of uncertainty, during which he visited Russia and there was invited to join the faculties of several Russian universities, he went to England. Through the efforts of Dr Einstein, the Bausch and Lomb Optical Company and the Eastman Kodak Company became aware of his need for a permanent position where his talents could be appreciated. It was in 1935, then, that he was transferred from the London office of the Eastman Kodak Company to the main works in Rochester, New York. Here he has remained, and he is now a senior research associate in charge of optical research in the physics division of the Research Laboratories. This department is concerned with lens designing, with particular attention to the study of the theory of optical images and lens design.

Dr Herzberger has always been interested in trying to develop a general theory of optical imagery, along the paths of thought originated by Hamilton and extended by Bruns. Needless to say, this is a difficult approach but one of great promise, especially for the clearer understanding of optical imagery. It offers the same kind of advantages of generality and instructiveness as any algebraic solution does, in comparison with a merely numerical approximation to the solution of a specific problem. The numerical answer does not help in the solution of similar problems, whereas the algebraic solution not only facilitates their solution but contributes to our knowledge and understanding of all such problems. Thus, in lens design, trial-and-error methods, even when automated by modern computing equipment, merely result in the design of particular lenses. They add nothing to our knowledge or understanding. Dr Herzberger, with the algebraic approach, has the ambition to make clear the entire phenomena of optical imagery in such a manner that the required lens design will follow logically and even obviously from prescribed performance requirements. Or else, the impossibility of fulfilling these requirements will be proved in such a manner as to indicate how the requirements can be modified so as to be equally satisfactory and realizable. Dr Herzberger has published more than 150 papers in the field of optics, the more important ones of which are listed in an appendix to this citation. He worked over a period of fifteen years on incorporating his ideas on optical imagery in a book, which was published in 1958 and is entitled 'Modern Geometrical Optics'.

Dr Herzberger has always been a loyal member of the Optical Society of America; he has been interested in all its programs and has served as an associate editor of the Journal. He and Dr Mary Warga were the American delegates to the first International Congress in Optics, in Paris, in 1947.

Dr Herzberger isn't entirely a "starry-eyed" mathematician, however. He has many outside interests that include chess, music (he plays the piano), hiking, art, and especially the study of religious philosophy. He is sufficiently familiar with the teachings of Lao-tse, Buddha, Socrates, Spinoza, and others that he has given lectures on them to interested audiences.

Mr President, it is a privilege to recommend to you on behalf of the Committee, consisting of Drs George Higgins, Robert Woodson, Frederick Paul, Robert Stephens, Hideya Gamo, and myself as chairman, that the Frederic Ives Medal be awarded to Dr Max Herzberger for his outstanding contributions to optics and image formation.

Last Updated April 2016