James A. Harrington

May 5, 1942 ~ June 20, 2018 (age 76)

Dr. James A. Harrington (Jim), born May 5, 1942, son of George and Evelyn Harrington, passed away on June 20, 2018. Jim graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA, and Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, where he received his PhD in Physics in 1970. He continued post-doctoral work for two years at the University of Stuttgart in Germany and did an additional one year of post-doctoral work at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. In 1973 Jim moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he began his academic career teaching for three years as Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Alabama. In 1976 Jim temporarily left the academic world and turned to industry, moving to Malibu, CA, where he spent seven years as Senior Staff Physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories. While at Hughes, Jim was manager of the infrared fiber optics program and responsible for developing the use of infrared fibers in CO2 laser surgery. From 1985-1989 Jim was director of infrared fiber operations for Heraeus LaserSonics in Westlake Village, CA, where he was in charge of developing fiber optics for surgical applications.

In 1989 Jim resumed his academic career at Rutgers University where he attained the rank of Distinguished Professor in 1998, and taught and conducted research for 29 years. He became a popular and highly respected professor who delighted in mentoring and guiding many graduate and undergraduate students toward their degrees. During 2005-2006 Jim took a one-year leave of absence from Rutgers and moved to Washington D.C. when he was selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State. At the State Department, Jim served as a science advisor within the Bureau of Security and Nonproliferation and helped to establish international controls for lasers and detectors. After he completed his fellowship, Jim returned to Rutgers but continued to serve the State Department for an additional five years in an advisory capacity.

Jim was highly active in his professional society SPIE (The International Society for Optics and Photonics). He regularly participated in biannual SPIE conferences and took an active role in society leadership meetings multiple times every year. Among his many positions for the SPIE, Jim chaired the Fellows Committee, The Engineering and Science Committee and the Ethics Committee, and served as editor of the Tutorial Text series for the SPIE Press. In 2001 Jim was elected President of SPIE. The society awarded Jim its Director’s award in 2008 and the Gold Medal, its highest honor, in 2014 for 30 years of pioneering research and development in specialty fiber optics and infrared optical materials.

Jim also supported the global community in his field and served as Treasurer of the ICO (International Commission for Optics) from 2008-2017. He maintained close contact with research colleagues in Japan, Israel, Germany and Russia. In 1994 he became a visiting professor at the University of Rennes, France, and in 2004 was a visiting lecturer at Tohoku University, Japan.

With over 40 years of research experience in the area of optical properties of solids, Jim worked on all aspects of infrared fibers and was recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in hollow fibers for medical applications and infrared transmission in general. Specifically Jim and his students invented the hollow glass waveguide, one of the most actively licensed technologies within Rutgers.  During his career he published more than 190 articles, authored the book, Infrared Fibers and Their Applications, and was awarded 10 patents on specialty fiber optics and medical devices.

Jim had many interests outside of the lab and classroom. In the 1960s he was active in the civil rights movement. More recently Jim enjoyed ballroom dancing, bicycling, traveling, listening to country music, reading mysteries and attending the theater in NYC. He was an ardent fan and supporter of the NY Gilbert and Sullivan Players and served as a member on its board. Shortly before his passing, he anticipated taking lessons and singing on stage with members of the Gilbert and Sullivan group.

Jim is survived by his wife Janice A. Boles, daughter Julie H. Bahr (William), grandsons William G. Bahr and Tyler W. Bahr, and sister Donna H. Runyan. Jim also is survived by the mother of his child and former wife Jeanne P. Harrington.

 The family is planning a memorial service September 30 at the Kirkpatrick Chapel at Rutgers. Details at Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, 582 Springfield Ave., Westfield, NJ 07090 

Contributions in Jim’s memory can be made to: Materials, Science and Engineering Department at Rutgers University (MSE Dept. Rutgers), c/o Ms. Nahed Assal, MSE Dept. Rutgers, 607 Taylor Rd. Piscataway, NJ  08854,

Or, New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGASP), 225 West 99th Street, NY, NY 10025

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