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MS039: Alan and Audrey Carlan Collection of Harold Osterberg Papers

Identifier: MS39

Scope and Contents

Almost the entire collection is comprised of class notes and a manuscript of Harold Osterberg, for courses Dr. Osterberg taught at American Optical Company in the 1950s. There are also a few pages of notes made by Alan Carlan. At the end of the collection are a copy of a letter from Audrey Carlan to the 2007 reunion chair, Mike Stephens, and photocopies of articles about the Carlans.


  • Majority of material found within 1949 - 1954

Conditions Governing Access

Permission of Archivist

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Biographical / Historical

Harold Osterberg received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1931. The title of his thesis was “An Interferometer method of studying the vibrations of an oscillating quartz plate.” Dr. Osterberg taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison until 1939, when he joined Spencer Lens Company in Buffalo, New York, which was then the Instrument Division of American Optical Company. In the 1950s he was head of the Mathematics Section of American Optical’s Research Center in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He continued with American Optical until at least 1977. Dr. Osterberg published papers on optics and lasers, had several patents, and received the David Richardson Medal from the Optical Society of America in 1983. An article by Jeff Hecht titled “Thirty-Five Years of Lasers,” which appeared in Laser Focus World in May 1995, says that Elias Snitzer, Will Hicks and Harold Osterberg made the first single-mode optical fibers.

Audrey Carlan, who took courses with Dr. Osterberg at American Optical Company in the 1950s, said in an article in WPI West magazine that Harold Osterberg inspired her to excel: “’Turn light on and off at the frequency of life,’ he told me, and that ambition of his instantly became mine. I was thrilled by those words.’”


.5 Linear Feet (1 flip top box)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was given to WPI Archives & Special Collections by Audrey Carlan in memory of her husband, Alan. Both Audrey and Alan had taken classes with Professor Osterberg at American Optical Company, and they both received M.S. degrees in Physics from WPI in 1957.

Alan and Audrey Carlan Collection of Harold Osterberg Papers
Margaret Anderson
Language of description
Script of description
Code for uncoded script

Revision Statements

  • 2021-01-29: Edit

Repository Details

Part of the WPI Manuscript Collections Repository

100 Institute Rd
George C. Gordon Library
Worcester MA 01609 USA