A. Theodore Forrester, whose two inventions became cornerstones in the fields of quantum optics and satellite acceleration, died Sunday at his West Los Angeles home after a lengthy battle with cancer. The UCLA professor, scientist and engineer was 68.
In the 1940s he invented a photoelectric mixing tube which enabled advances in quantum optics and in the 1950s perfected an ion engine for satellites. Both those contributions are on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
During World War II, Forrester was working at the University of California, Berkeley, on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb. In a 1985 letter to The Times he lamented the use of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, saying that “the Japanese could have been induced to surrender without using the bomb and without launching an invasion.”
He joined the UCLA faculty in 1967 and was a professor of both electrical engineering and physics until his death. He had completed a book on large ion beams shortly before his death.
On campus he was known as both an acclaimed teacher and founder and chairman of Concerned Faculty, a group of about 200 working to reverse the nuclear arms race and change U.S. policy in Central America.
He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics at Cornell University and is survived by two sons, two daughters, a stepson and a sister.