Developed LASER for the first time in Korea and led the domestication of optics technology by developing lenses
A science administrator and esteemed teacher who fostered globally renowned optics scientists
(Late) Lee Sang-soo
Former President of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science (KAIS; currently KAIST) (1925~2010)
- Academic background
B.S. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Seoul National Univ. (Physics)
M.S. at Imperial College, London, UK (Physics)
Ph.D. at Imperial College, London, UK (Optics)
- Professional career
1967 ~ 1970
President of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, Atomic Energy Agency
1970 ~ 1971
Head of the National Bureau of Atomic Energy
1971 ~ 1972
First President of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science
First President of the Korea Optics Society
1972 ~ 1991
Professor of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science (currently, KAIST)
Order of Civil Merit, Peony Medal
Presidential Award, Korea Science and Technology Award
Order of Civil Merit, Rose of Sharon Medal
Esther Hoffman Beller Medal (US Optics Society)
Established stable research environments while in the office of the president of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science
Professor Sang Soo Lee established the framework for the development of research and education in optics and optic technologies, including the development of LASER. He also made great contributions to the administration of the science area.
He studied physics at university and entered optics via study in the UK. Born in 1925 in Shinheung-gun, Hamgyeongnam-don, North Korea, he graduated from Hamheung Commerce High School and from the Physics dept. of Seoul National University in 1949. He studied one more year at the graduate school of the university. In 1953, he was awarded a scholarship from the British Council in Korea to study at the Imperial College, London. There, he earned a Ph.D. with research on optic thin film. Back then, there were few Koreans who had earned a Ph.D. from overseas universities in physics, especially in the study of experimental physics. He has participated in the establishment and operation of major Korea science-related institutions since the 1960s, leaving a large footprint in both science administration and optics education and research.
Returning to Korea, he laid the foundation of physics research relating to atomic energy reactors at the Atomic Energy Institute established in 1959. With the launch of Korea’s first research-purpose atomic energy reactor TRIGA-II in 1962, the physics lab began research in areas such as measuring raw materials’ cross-sectional areas that soak neutrons, the diffraction and scattering of heat neutrons, and nuclear spectroscopy under his direction. In addition, since 1967 and 1970, he took up the presidency of the Atomic Energy Institute and the Bureau of Atomic Energy, respectively, and greatly contributed to the foundation of Korean atomic energy research by leading the enhancement of the output of the TRIGA-II and winning the contract and construction of the TRIGA-III.
Established the foundation of the research and industry on lasers by developing the LASER for the first time in Korea
In 1964, he began the research on LASER at the Atomic Energy Institute. The institute was the only science and technology institute in Korea, de facto, differently from its name, until the establishment of the KIST. Therefore, research there was not confined within the area of atomic energy and LASER was also one of the research areas. LASER, developed in 1960, was attracting the interest of global scientists due to its various usages such as cutting metals, fine processing, and measuring distance. Though everything, like information, equipment, and research expenses, was insufficient, his research team succeeded to extract a helium-neon LASER beam for the first time in Korea in 1967. This signaled the development of a variety of high-fidelity LASERs to be continued by him and his students.
It was not until he moved to the newly established Korea Advanced Institute of Science (later, reorganized into the KAIST) that they began full-fledged research on optics, surpassing LASER. The institute was the first science and engineering graduate school linked to the KIST. As the founding president, he made an effort to ensure that talented professors and students could gather together for research in a stable environment. As a result, they had a great environment, which was very unconventional at the time, such as all-expense scholarships, a dormitory, and exemptions from mandatory military service. After finishing his term as president, he devoted himself to research and education as a professor until 1991 when he retired.
His research range across all the areas of optics, such as undulate optics, LASER optics, geometrical optics, optical information handling and optical communication, non-linear optics, light scattering, and spectroscopy. His representative research included: research on interferometer and high-rate reflector composed of metal thin film and organic body thin film, research on the development of lenses for cameras and photocopiers, research on the development of an optical system for lithography to produce semiconductors, and research on the optical characteristics of transmission via optical fibers. These research endeavors were based on basic research, but also had the characteristics of applied research by developing technologies needed for the development of optical equipment and parts and the optical industry. Especially, along with the growth of the Korean optical industry in the 1980s, he led the establishment of the Korea Optics Society in 1989 with the participation by researchers in electricity and electronics, chemistry, and mechanics to promote industrial research in the optical area. He also convened a product exhibition by the Korean optical industry, taking the opportunity of the Pan-Pacific International Conference on LASER and Photoelectron in 1996, according to his pet theory focusing on industry-academia cooperation.
Fostered lots of optics researchers and created a world-class optics researchers’ group
His research spirit that focused on applied research that may improve the lives of mankind as much as basic research has carried over to his students of 107 masters and 48 Ph.Ds. They advanced out to universities, industrial corporations, and public institutes and led the development of the Korean optical industry, along with their teacher, Dr. Lee, enhancing the profile of Korean optic research globally.
He was recognized for his devotion and achievements in research, education, and science administration by the government and academic organizations in Korea and overseas. He had the honor of receiving the Order of Civil Merit, Peony Medal in 1979, the Presidential Award, Korea Science and Technology Award in 1982, and the Order of Civil Merit, Rose of Sharon Medal in 2000. Internationally, he was appointed as a Fellow of the American Optics Society in 1975 and won the Esther Hoffman Beller Medal from the US Optics Society in 2007. In addition, in 2014, the American Optics Society and the Korea Optics Society jointly established the ‘Lee Sang Soo Award’ and ever since are granting the award to those who have contributed to the development of optics biannually.
Professor Shinmyeong Sang Soo Lee has made broad activities as an optics researcher, educator, and science administrator and organizer. Through the activities, he showed how scientific research can contribute to industrial development since the 1960s to the 2000s, making him a living witness.