Skip to Main Content


(Michigan & St John's 1952) (10 December 1930 - 20 January 2021)

A professor of physics, astronomy and electrical engineering at USC for nearly 50 years, Robert W. Hellwarth was a laser innovator and a beloved mentor. 

Hellwarth was offered a scholarship to Princeton University, where he was valedictorian of his class, earning a dual undergraduate degree in physics and electrical engineering in 1952. He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and spent the next three years at the University of Oxford, earning his doctorate in physics in 1955 and becoming a lifelong Anglophile.

A fellow of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Optical Society of America (OSA), Hellwarth was also the recipient of the OSA’s Charles Hard Townes Award.

Hellwarth wrote or co-authored more than 200 papers and articles, the last published in 2018, shortly before his 88th birthday.

Bob frequently returned to Oxford over the years, during which he'd meet with colleagues dating back to his Rhodes years, make recurring appearances at the Clarendon Laboratory, and popping in for tea at St. John's. 

Read more from USC Dornsife and the LA Times. Read Ben Hellwarth's Obituary for his father, Robert.