Laser and Fiber Optic Expert Awarded Jacobs Chair in Applied Physics

James A. Harrington contributed to medical, industrial and defense uses of fiber optics, advised Department of State on safeguarding technology exports

The Board of Governors today awarded the Donald H. Jacobs Chair in Applied Physics to James A. Harrington, professor of Materials Science and Engineering. The appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Harrington is an internationally recognized leader in the field of fiber optics, focusing on specialty fiber optics that serve as chemical and temperature sensors and deliver laser power for surgical and industrial uses. His achievements, especially the invention of the hollow glass waveguide, have led to major advances in medical and national defense applications of fiber optic and infrared optical technologies.

The chair, established in 1990 with a gift from the estate of alumnus Donald H. Jacobs, is awarded to a different faculty member every three years. It recognizes senior faculty in a variety of fields who have made distinguished accomplishments in applied physics, the branch of physics that forms the basis for modern technology.

Harrington served the U.S. Department of State in 2006 and 2007 as a Jefferson Science Fellow, bringing clarity to export licensing decisions that involved “dual use” technologies – those equally used in military and commercial goods. He reviewed technologies involving photo detectors, such as those used in night vision cameras, and superconductors used in magnets for scientific instrumentation and high-energy physics research, to help the government prevent their unlawful export use in weapon systems.