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News & Press: News From Europe

Obituary: Wolfgang Sandner

Tuesday 5 January 2016  
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We suddenly lost Professor Wolfgang Sandner, a beloved laser scientist and the international leader in high intensity laser, on December 5, 2015.  He was attending the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) Workshop in Romania just a few days prior to his passing, chatting with our colleagues affably. He left a gaping hole in the ELI-Delivery Consortium’s General Directorship, which leads the world’s highest intensity laser initiative. He was GD of ELI-DC from its inception in 2013. This followed his leadership activities in ELI-Preparatory Phase 2008-2011 (which was initiated by Prof. G. Mourou).   Under his leadership Europe was firmly set as the undisputed world leader in the field of intense laser research.

Among other services (I won’t list all of his illustrious career and positions here, as other such pronouncements no doubt have been written) he served as Director of Max Born Institute from 1993 till 2013, as the leading advocate of high field science there. At MBI he launched a strong team of intense laser matter interaction research. His team published, among other important papers, the first experimental observation of what is called the Radiation Pressure Acceleration of ions driven by intense laser (I had a privilege to be part of the paper) in 2009.  (He was also Professor at Technical University of Berlin, 1994-2014). As a member of MBI Science Advisory Board (2009-2013) I had a pleasure of advising and interacting with him and his team deeply. During his tenure (2003-2013), he had become the leader in Europe (and the world) to integrate many intense (and not so intense) laser labs in Europe, most active in the world, serving as Coordinator of Laser Lab Europe, a shining example how best different labs can complementally coordinate with each other to produce far more than the sum of the all. His scientific leadership also included his Presidency of German Physical Society, the world’s largest physical society (2010-2012).

He was among a couple of dozens of internationally prominent intense laser scientists when Prof. Yoshiaki Kato invited them and hosted an OECD-sponsored inaugurating meeting of what had become International Committee for Ultrahigh Intensity Lasers (a Chapter of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics) at Kyoto’s Advanced Photon Research Center in 2002. These people including Wolfgang pushed the envelope of the development of world’s highest intensity laser ever since.  Dr. Sandner led ICUIL activities and served as Co-Chair of ICUIL from 2008 till 2012.

Before he came back to Germany, he served as full professor at the University of Tennessee from 1991-1994. He was a Fellow of American Physical Society.  He graduated from the University of Freiburg with PhD in atomic physics in 1979.  

He was an avid sportsman such as enjoying a long oceanic cruise by yacht every so often. He was survived by a wife and two children.  He was 66.


Toshiki Tajima
Chair, ICUIL
Chairman, ELI-NP International Scientific Advisory Board
Norman Rostoker Chair Professor, University of California at Irvine

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