Optical engineering innovator made HD possible

Robert Hopkins, an innovator in optical engineering whose lens designs led to the first high-def, wide aspect-ratio films, died Saturday, July 4, in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 94.

Hopkins’ work on the Todd-AO lens — first used in the musical “Oklahoma!” in1955 — made possible for large format films. He was among the first to use computers as a tool for designing optical systems and to recognize the importance of lasers in quantum physics.

A graduate of MIT, Hopkins earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the U. of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. He went on to direct the institute from 1954-65.

“During his long and productive career, Bob Hopkins brought remarkable insight, energy and humanity to optical science and engineering,” said Thomas G. Brown, prof and director of the Robert E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering.

In 1953, he co-founded Tropel, Inc., an optical systems and instruments manufacturing firm, and in 2007, the Hopkins Center was created.

Born in Belmont, Mass., Hopkins organized the “Laser Road Show” for the National Science Foundation to introduce laser technologies at colleges, universities and corporations.

Throughout his career, Hopkins served on many advisory boards, and was honored by orgs, including the American Society for Engineering Education, the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America.

He is survived by four sons and two daughters.

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