Erwin G. Loewen


A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 S Winton Rd, Rochester, NY 14610 on Saturday, August 6th at 3:00 PM.


Erwin G. Loewen, Honorary Member of the American Society for Precision Engineering, died Wednesday, June 8, 2016, in Rochester, NY, formally of East Rochester, NY, of natural causes after a short illness, aged 95 years young. Erwin was born April 12, 1921, in Germany and emigrated to the US in 1938. Thanks to the generous help of relations in the US, his family was able to leave Nazi German soil with only a few marks and a few family treasures. Up to his death Erwin kept close at hand the portraits of his beloved ancestors, and even their 200-year old clock.

Erwin studied at New York University and then served in the Army Corps of Engineers during WW II. He prepared for bridge-building in the impending invasion of Japan, which fortunately never materialized. He spent time in Japan rebuilding runways destroyed by bombing. He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant mainly, he claimed, for playing with the Colonel’s dog.     Once the war ended he studied for his PhD at MIT, Cambridge, MA. As a grad student he wrote what was then a novel book, A Guide To Boston’s Restaurants, selling for the whopping price of twenty five cents. He said he recouped the cost of production and most of what was spent on meals. Having achieved his doctorate he held the post of Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT for three interesting years.

Within mechanical engineering he specialized in optical physics (carrying on the vocation his father Franz had practiced at Zeiss Optik). He worked at a tool and die company in Woonsocket, Rhode Island before joining Bausch and Lomb in Rochester, New York. There he specialized in precision engineering, especially the then-arcane field of diffraction gratings. For over 25 years he directed the development of diffraction grating ruling and replication at the Bausch and Lomb grating lab. (Diffraction gratings are an underlying technology of lasers, spectroscopes, and CD’s; Erwin’s lab looked like a rainbow factory.) At Milton Roy, a Bausch & Lomb spin off, he added to this directorship the vice presidency for Research and Development. He innovatively advanced manufacture of grating by holographic techniques .

Dr. Loewen published extensively in his field and established a long collaboration with the theoretical physics group at the University of Marseilles in France. He was a true polymath. He wrote and in 1997 published a book collecting widely scattered information on the many aspects of gratings, their properties, behavior, applications and manufacture.

Dr. Loewen was a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and an honorary member of the American Society for Precision Engineering. In 1991 he was honored with the Rochester Engineer of the Year award and the Technology Award of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Loewen served two terms as a member and chair of the advisory panel for the Institute for Basic Standards of the National Bureau of Standards, where one aspect was to oversee the ill-fated transition to the metric system in the US. After retirement he worked as Adjunct Professor of Optics at the University of Rochester, and at Monroe Community College.

Dr. Loewen was a man of many enthusiasms: gourmet, wine connoisseur, photographer, writer of memoir essays, and traveler. He was a raconteur of incomparable wit. His family knew him as scientist, engineer, humanist, bon vivant, lover of classical music, and creator of exhilarating photographs. He spent considerable years as a Boy Scout leader in troop 67, East Rochester, NY. Although he called himself an ardent opponent of exercise, he skied up until his 90th birthday.

Dr. Loewen leaves his wife Anita Rosenfeld, of Rochester, daughter Heidi, of Santa Fe, NM, son Oliver and fiancé Maria Silva of Marblehead, MA. His grandchildren are Hans Loewen Heath (Boulder, CO), Mackenzie (Daytona Beach, FL), and Hannah (Marblehead, MA).

Dr. Loewen was a great, yet modest man, who lived a long, full, and wonderful life. He will be missed by his many friends, family and colleagues, and always fondly remembered. A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 S Winton Rd, Rochester, NY 14610 on Saturday, August 6th at 3:00 PM.

 

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