CAP is deeply saddened by the loss of Boris P. Stoicheff, CAP Past President

Boris P. Stoicheff, a CAP Past President (1983-84), a distinguished optical physicist and an emeritus university professor at the University of Toronto, passed away on April 15, 2010 in Toronto after a battle with multiple myeloma. He was 85.

Stoicheff was renowned for his pioneering contributions to High Resolution Raman, Brillouin, and VUV spectroscopy; together with colleagues at NRC he built the first ruby laser in Canada.

Stoicheff was born in Macedonia in 1924 and emigrated to Canada with his parents and sisters in 1931. He obtained a B.A.Sc in Engineering Physics (1947) and a PhD in Molecular spectroscopy (1950) from the University of Toronto. Following an inspiring seminar by Gerhard Herzberg, Stoicheff joined what would turn out to be his life-long mentor at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa where he continued his work on Raman scattering in a group that included Cec Costain, Alex Douglas, Don Ramsey and Hin Lu. Stoicheff remained at the NRC as a staff scientist from 1951-1964. He spent a sabbatical year in 1963 working with Charles Townes at MIT, and shortly thereafter, so thoroughly having enjoyed his interaction with graduate students, joined the University of Toronto as a professor of physics (1964). In his 25 years at U of T Stoicheff graduated 25 Ph.D students, his pride and joy. Although he continued to perform research after he officially retired he spent much of his time writing Herzberg’s biography, Gerhard Herzberg – An Illustrious Life in Science. The CAP has presented a copy of this biography, duly autographed by Boris Stoicheff, to its Herzberg Memorial Public Lecturer for the past several years at the CAP Congress.

Throughout his career, Stoicheff served on numerous Canadian and international committees, including the Board of NRC, the Quantum-Electronics Council, Council of Professional Engineers of Ontario, Ontario Nuclear Safety Review Committee, International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the Royal Society of Canada, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. He also served with distinction on many committees of the Optical Society of America and became its first foreign president in 1976.

A CAP member for nearly 60 years, Stoicheff was very active in the CAP’s activities. He was Chair of the Division of Atomic and Molecular Physics in 1970 and joined the presidential line in 1981, becoming President in 1983-84. One of his most important activities came during these years. He was actively involved in the CAP’s intervention (started initially by CAP member Peter Kirkby) with respect to the efforts of the Ontario Association of Professional Engineers in the early 1980’s to modify the Ontario Professional Engineers Act to expand the definition of the practice of engineering. Stoicheff, during his year as CAP President, took responsibility for preparing the CAP’s intervention case and addressed the Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature. At the same time, he contacted members of this Committee and other influential representatives of government and opposition. Stoicheff, accompanied by Raymond Hoff (Environment Canada), Allan Carswell (York University and Optech Inc.) and our legal advisor Brian Flood (Tory, Tory, DesLauriers and Binnington), briefly reviewed the highlights of the CAP’s written presentation. He ended with a recommendation that the committee add “but does not include practicing as a natural scientist” to the proposed definition of the practice of professional engineering. The recommendation was accepted and the three years of effort by the CAP Committee on behalf of the physics community, and the natural scientists generally, was successfully concluded. These efforts underscored the need for CAP and its members to remain vigilant to wording included in provincial engineering acts and led to the creation of the position of Director of Professional Affairs on the CAP’s Executive Committee.

In 1974, Stoicheff received the CAP’s highest honour, its Medal of Achievement. He was also the recipient of many other awards and honors. He was appointed University Professor at U of T in 1977, Officer of the Order of Canada (1982), and was elected Fellow of numerous societies including the Royal Society of London, Royal Society of Canada, American Physical Society, Optical Society of America, Australian Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Centennial Medal of Canada (1967), the Henry Marshall Tory Medal of The Royal Society of Canada, as well as several honorary degrees. Stoicheff was the author and co-author of more than 150 papers on spectroscopy, laser physics and nonlinear optics.

Boris Stoicheff is survived by his wife, Joan, a son, Peter, 2 grandchildren, and four sisters.

A memorial celebration of his life will be held at Massey College at the University of Toronto in May, 2010.