Remembering MSE Professor Jim Harrington: 1942-2018

Rutgers School of Engineering professor James A. Harrington, a leader in the field of fiber optics with over 40 years of research experience in the area of optical properties of solids, died on June 20, he was 76. 

A distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Harrington’s many scientific achievements include his most notable invention, hollow glass waveguides which has had numerous and vital applications and has been one of Rutgers' most-licensed technologies. He is also cited for the development of diffusing-tip silica fibers for use in photodynamic therapy and prostate surgery; growing single-crystal sapphire fibers using a laser-heated pedestal; and the development of infrared fibers for use in military warning receivers.

Harrington graduated from Grinnell College and Northwestern University, where he received his doctoral degree in physics in 1970. Over the course of his career he held academic and research positions at the University of Alabama, Hughes Research Laboratories, and Heraeus Laser Sonics before joining Rutgers in 1989. In 2005-2006, he was selected to serve as a Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State where he helped to establish international controls for lasers and detectors.

Harrington was active in the professional society SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). He was the SPIE 2014 Gold Medalist for his years of pioneering research and development in specialty fiber optics and infrared optical materials.

“Jim was much admired by both his faculty colleagues and the many students he taught and mentored at Rutgers,” said Thomas Farris, dean of the School of Engineering. “His research achievements in the field of fiber optics are a notable pride point for the school, most notably through his significant contributions advancing fiber optics use in surgical and industrial applications.”

According to his family's obituary online, "Jim had many interests outside of the lab and classroom. In the 1960s he was active in the civil rights movement. More recently Jim enjoyed ballroom dancing, bicycling, traveling, listening to country music, reading mysteries and attending the theater in NYC. He was an ardent fan and supporter of the NY Gilbert and Sullivan Players and served as a member on its board. Shortly before his passing, he anticipated taking lessons and singing on stage with members of the Gilbert and Sullivan group."

His survivors include his wife Janice A. Boles, daughter Julie H. Bahr and her husband William, grandsons William G. Bahr and Tyler W. Bahr, and sister Donna H. Runyan, along with his former wife Jeanne P. Harrington.

The family is planning a memorial service September 30 at the Kirkpatrick Chapel at Rutgers.

Read the formal obituary which also includes a tribute wall where you can leave rememberances of Dr. Harrington.

Read the SPIE Newsroom Memoriam