International Commission for Optics
Founded1947; 75 years ago (1947)
TypeInternational non-governmental organization
FocusOptics and photonics
  • Institute d'Optique, France
OriginsFounded by optical scientists in 1947 under the leadership of Pierre Fleury
Area served
MethodConferences, Newsletter, reports
52 Territorial Committees
Key people
Roberta Ramponi (President), Angela M. Guzman (Secretary), Yasuhiko Arakawa (Past President), Duncan T. Moore (Past President), Jim Harrington (Treasurer), Gert von Bally (Associate Secretary)

The International Commission for Optics (ICO) was created in 1947 with the objective to contribute, on an international basis, to the progress and dissemination of the science of optics and photonics and their applications. It emphasises the unity of the crossdisciplinary field of optics.

Optics and photonics are defined as the fields of science and engineering encompassing the physical phenomena and technologies associated with the generation, transmission, manipulation, detection, and utilisation of light. It extends on both sides of the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum as far as the same concepts apply.

In particular, the ICO promotes international cooperation and facilitates the rapid exchange of information, by encouraging and furthering the organisation, on an international basis, of scientific meetings and summer schools. It emphasises actions for the education and training in optics and photonics internationally. It undertakes special actions for the development of optics and photonics in regions where particular support is needed. It strives to improve the recognition of optics and photonics as fields of science with a significant impact on economy. It works also for the promotion of international agreements on nomenclature, units, symbols and standards.

It is a Scientific Associate of the International Council for Science (ICSU) and Affiliated Commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

Among the activities of ICO are the organization and sponsorship of congresses, meetings and schools, and the awarding of prizes to distinguished scientists in optics and photonics. It has a Traveling Lecturer Program, and publishes quarterly the ICO Newsletter, the triennial book series International trends in optics and a Triennial Report.


The mission of the International Commission for Optics is to contribute, on an international basis, to the progress and diffusion of knowledge in the fields of optics and photonics.

History (by J.N. Howard)

The birth of ICO: Reunions d'Opticiens, Paris, France, 1946

In 1946 Europe was at last beginning to recover from the ordeal of World War II. The oldest and largest optics group in Europe was the Institut d'Optique in Paris, which had been founded in 1921 by the distinguished optical physicist Charles Fabry (1867-1945), and the director of the Institut d'Optique, Prof. Pierre Fleury, who had succeeded Fabry in 1945, was eager to resume an active role in European optics. He wrote to his optics colleagues and former students throughout Europe and invited them to participate in a Reunions d'Opticiens in Paris 14–19 October 1946. Scientists from 16 different countries participated in this first post-war European optics conference. The invited papers were by Frank Twyman (of Hilger and Watts) on the production of aspherical surfaces; Louis de Broglie on image formation, Jean Cabannes on the development of optics in France, and Pierre Fleury reviewed the history of the Institut d'Optique and research pursued since 1940. Then followed several days of contributed papers from most of the European optics groups. Many of the participants urged Fleury to seek some mechanism for continued cooperation in the optics community.

Pierre Fleury was already a French representative to IUPAP (the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics), with headquarters in Paris, and he was aware that the statutes of IUPAP provided for the creation of commissions in specific areas of physics; why not a commission for optics? He also determined that UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, with headquarters in Paris) would also be able to provide -through IUPAP- some funds for travel to a Preparatory Meeting in Prague to discuss the formation of an International Commission for Optics.

The ICO Preparatory Meeting, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1947

In January 1947 the General Assembly of IUPAP approved the appointment of a Preparatory Committee, with Prof. Pierre Fleury as Secretary, to consider forming an International Commission for Optics. The preparatory committee met in Prague, Czechoslovakia, 2–7 June 1947, with Prof Josef Hrdlicka as host. Fifteen delegates attended, representing eight countries, (Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden). Replies were received from five other countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, and the USA) that their representatives would be unable to attend, and Argentina and the USSR did not respond.

The attendees agreed that an International Commission for Optics should be formed as a self-governing affiliated commission of IUPAP. Each member country would form a national committee for ICO, which would select that country's representative to the ICO Bureau meetings. A set of provisional Statutes was adopted (patterned after the Statutes of IUPAP), and a provisional bureau was elected, (subject to approval by IUPAP and re-confirmation by the national committees at the first official meeting.) Thomas Smith of London was elected president; Pierre Fleury of Paris, secretary; Albert Arnulf of Paris, treasurer; and Josef Hrdlicka of Prague a vice-president, with two other vice-presidents to be selected at the first official meeting. The delegates decided to hold their first plenary session of ICO in conjunction with the next General Assembly of IUPAP in July 1948 in Amsterdam. (The Dutch delegate, Prof van Heel, invited the ICO to meet at his laboratory in Delft.)

The organizers also formulated the objectives of ICO: the study of optical theory, the theoretical study and construction of optical instruments, and the physiological optics of the eye. The organizers were grateful to both UNESCO and IUPAP for travel, secretarial and publication support during the initial organizational stage, but in order to ensure smooth functioning of ICO in 1948 and beyond it was decided to assess each member country for an annual contribution based on the same population scale used by IUPAP: countries with less than 5 million inhabitants, 1 unit; 5 to 10 million, 2 units; 10 to 15 million, 3 units; 15 to 20 million, 5 units; and greater than 20 million, 8 units.

As tasks to be accomplished in the near term by ICO, each national committee was asked to establish if possible a list of the names and addresses of its optics researchers and also a list of the manufacturers of optical instruments. Each country was also asked to supply a list of their optics publications for the war years 1939–1945.

As a further challenge to the new organization the delegates compiled a list of about 20 technical problem areas in optics. These subjects were assigned to various ICO national committees, with a request that each committee report on its problem at the 1948 meeting in the Netherlands. Most of the problem areas represented the special interests of the delegates present at the preparatory session, and this would provide a quick mechanism to ensure some technical content at the first formal meeting of ICO. Italy (Giuliano Toraldo di Francia) would survey diffraction theory; Great Britain (T. Smith) would survey aberration studies (without diffraction); and France (André Maréchal) and the Netherlands would report on the combined effect of aberrations and diffraction. Sweden (E. Ingelstam) would survey gratings; Great Britain, photographic objectives; and other groups were assigned other tasks. Finally, there would be reports on sign conventions, notation, tolerances and the specification of optical drawings.

In drawing up these assigned tasks the preparatory commission was following the usual format of a commission of a scientific union: stating specific problems to be reported on by the commission. In Prague the founding group had recognized the need for improved international cooperation in optics, had sketched a charter for ICO, and had planned a comprehensive program for the ICO initial meeting in 1948.

The First Congress, ICO-1, Delft, Netherlands, 1948

The first official meeting of ICO took place 12–17 July 1948 at the Physics Laboratory of the Technische Hogeschool, Delft, Netherlands. Forty-four delegates from eleven countries attended the meetings. At the first session Prof Fleury announced that IUPAP had cordially accepted the affiliation of ICO and had approved the Statutes provisionally adopted at Prague. The appointment of officers elected in 1947 was confirmed, and two additional vice-presidents were elected: S.S. Ballard (USA) and A.C.S. van Heel (Netherlands). Thus the eleven countries represented at Delft became the founding member countries of the ICO; Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.

In addition to the sessions devoted to reports on the problem areas that had been assigned at Prague, the participants heard four invited lectures: by M. Françon (France); T. Smith (Great Britain); D.B. Judd (USA); and A.C.S. van Heel (Netherlands). On the first day of the meeting Prof van Heel hosted a reception at his home, and on the last evening the group held a formal dinner. During the week there were several local visits to research laboratories: de Oude Delft; the Kammerlingh-Onnes Laboratory in Leiden; the Philips Research Labs at Eindhoven; van Cittert's collection of historical optical instruments at Utrecht; and the optics and electron optics laboratories of the Technische Hogeschool, Delft. This sort of mixing of technical reports and social activities is important in building a sense of community among the attendees.

The principal work at the meeting was the presentation of detailed reports on the topics that had been assigned at Prague. These reports occupied most of the six technical sessions. The delegates also agreed that ICO should not act as a vehicle for publishing original research papers. Full use should be made of existing scientific journals..The delegates agreed that one of the roles of ICO should be to sponsor conferences at which sets of invited papers are given on some specialized field or fields of optics.

At the final session President Thomas Smith announced that he had been authorized to invite the ICO to hold the next meeting in 1950 in London. This announcement was accepted by acclamation.

The Congresses of the International Commission for Optics

The ICO Congresses are held every three years; they include a General Business Meeting as requested by the statutes and a Scientific Meeting that covers most of research topics in optics and photonics. Dates and locations of ICO Congresses:

(preliminary meetings had been held in Czechoslovakia and France).



The provenience of ICO financial resources are the contributions from its members.


Territorial Committees Since Units Votes
Argentina 1981 2 2
Armenia 2011 1 1
Australia 1959 6 3
Belarus (A) 1993 2 2
Belgium (A) 1948 4 3
Brazil 1984 4 3
Canada 1956 8 4
Chinese Optical Society 1987 8 4
Colombia 1990 1 1
Cuba 1993 1 1
Czech Republic 1948 2 2
Denmark 1987 3 2
Ecuador (A) 2005
Estonia 2002 1 1
Finland 1978 3 2
France 1948 15 5
Germany 1953 15 5
Ghana / West Africa (A) 1993 1 1
Greece 2005 1 1
Hungary (A) 1963 3 2
India 1990 4 3
Indonesia (A) 1987 1 1
Ireland 1984 1 1
Islamic Republic of Iran (A) 1993 1 1
Israel 1972 2 2
Italy 1948 12 5
Japan 1953 15 5
Territorial Committees Since Units Votes
Korea (Republic of) 1975 3 2
Latvia 2002 1 1
Lithuania (A) 2003 1 1
Mexico 1972 2 2
Moldova (A) 2005 1 1
Morocco (A) 2002
Netherlands (A) 1948 4 3
New Zealand 1974 1 1
Norway 1981 3 2
Optical Engineering Society
Taipei China (A)
1981 3 2
Poland 1948 4 3
Portugal 2011 1 1
Romania 1993 1 1
Russia 1981 18 6
Singapore 1984 1 1
Slovak Republic 1948 1 1
Spain 1948 4 3
Sudan 2008 1 1
Sweden 1948 8 4
Switzerland 1948 4 3
Tunisia 2006 1 1
Turkey (A) 1996 1 1
Ukraine 1993 1 1
United Kingdom 1948 12 5
United States of America 1948 18 6
Venezuela 1997 1 1

(A) Associate member

International Societies Since Units Votes
African Laser, Atomic, Molecular and Optical Sciences Network (LAM Network) 2002 1 1
European Optical Society 1999 1 1
IEEE Photonics Society 2000 2 2
International Society on Optics Within Life Science (OWLS) 2000 1 1
The Optical Society 1999 5 3
Iberian American Network of Optics 2014 1 1
SPIE 2000 5 3


ICO Presidents

ICO Awards

ICO Prize

The ICO Prize was established in 1982 and is presented annually to a person who has made a noteworthy contribution to Optics before reaching the age of 40.

The ICO Medal
The ICO Medal
2013 Tobias Kippenberg Switzerland
2012 Romain Quidant Spain
2011 Nicholas X. Fang USA
2010 Reinhard Kienberger Germany
2009 Rajesh Menon USA
2008 Zeev Zalevsky Israel
2007 Susana Marcos Spain
2006 Hideyuki Sotobayashi Japan
2005 Immanuel Bloch Germany
2004 Ashok V. Krishnamoorthy USA and India
2003 Benjamin J. Eggleton Australia
2002 Prize not awarded
2001 Nabeel A. Riza Pakistan and USA
2000 Stefan W. Hell Germany
1999 Hugo Thienpont Belgium
1998 David Mendlovic & Israel
1998 & Haldun Ozaktas Turkey
1997 Andrew M. Weiner USA
1996 Vladimir Buzek Slovakia
1995 Tony F. Heinz USA
1994 Emmanuel Desurvire France and USA
1993 Aleksander K. Rebane Estonia and Switzerland
1992 Wolfgang Peter Schleich Germany
1991 David A.B. Miller UK and USA
1990 Rosario Martinez-Herrero Spain
1989 Demetri Psaltis USA and Greece
1987 Alain Aspect France
1986 Kensuke Ikeda Japan
1985 Sergei I. Stepanov USSR
1984 J. Christopher Dainty UK
1983 James R. Fienup USA
1982 Antoine Labeyrie France

IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics

IUPAP medal
IUPAP medal

ICO Galileo Galilei Medal Award

This award for the essential missions to recognize the promotion of Optics under difficult circumstances. It was established in 1993 by General Assembly of ICO, and has been awarded annually since 1994.

List of the award winners:[2]

The Galileo Galilei Medal
The Galileo Galilei Medal

Gallieno Denardo ICO/ICTP Award

See also


  1. ^ PROCEEDINGS OF SPIE VOLUME 8011, 22nd Congress of the International Commission for Optics: Light for the Development of the World, Editor(s): Ramón Rodríguez-Vera; Rufino Díaz-Uribe. Published: 20 October 2011; ISBN 9780819485854
  2. ^ "ICO Prizes and Awards | International Commission for Optics". Retrieved 2021-12-22.
  3. ^ "Academic Activities – Dr. Mohammed M.Shabat". Retrieved 2021-12-22.
  4. ^ "الجوائز العلمية للجامعة الإسلامية… لا يزال في سجلي متسع – الجامعة الإسلامية بغزة" (in Arabic). Retrieved 2021-12-22.