Royal Society Publishing

Charles Gorrie Wynne. 18 May 1911 – 1 October 1999

Jonathan Maxwell, Prudence M.J.H. Wormell

Elected F.R.S. 1970


Charles Gorrie Wynne dedicated his professional life to optical design and became a principal figure in the international optical design community. When he died, he was optical consultant to the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge and Emeritus Professor of Optical Design at Imperial College. Although nearly 90 years old he worked several days a week in the Institute of Astronomy until a few months before he died. He was elected to Fellowship of The Royal Society in 1970.

Wynne's expertise was in the field of optical instrument design, particularly lens design. Among lens designers he is best known for his effective theories of lens design, his elegant and ambitious lens designs, and particularly his invention of a very successful method of computer-assisted lens design, based on the method of least squares. Among astronomers he is known for what is almost a monopoly of designs for field–widening optics for large telescopes, and also for a series of scientifically elegant spectrographs and atmospheric dispersion correctors. With microcircuit manufacturers he is famous for his work on the Wynne–Dyson catadioptric relay printer for microcircuit production. By high–energy physicists he is known as the designer of bubble–chamber optics; finally, he is known by his assistants and his students as their professional mentor.

During the formative period of Charles Wynne's working life, optical design was performed almost exclusively behind the closed doors of optical factories. The optical designers in those factories traditionally led a monastic working life, closeted with a few close colleagues and assistants, grappling with the extensive numerical calculations that optical design involves. During the period of his career when he worked in this way, he managed to combine this type of working life with creative original research into new types of lens system and new methods of lens design.

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