Sid Charschan Remembered

Sid Charschan
Sid Charschan, a former president of the LIA and a recipient of the prestigious Wilkening and Schawlow Awards, passed away on Feb. 22, 2013.

An early supporter of the LIA, Sidney was the first secretary of the Z136 and later served, for many years, as the chairman of that committee. He was a pioneer in the field of industrial laser applications and was a trailblazer in laser safety through his various roles with the Z136 Committee.

After serving with the US Army in the European Theater during World War II, Sidney received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University. However, his technical accomplishments ranged well beyond that narrow discipline. He was a visionary, who possessed great imagination and creativity as attested by numerous patents, awards and technical papers and presentations.

Laser technology was in its infancy when Sid joined the Engineering Research Center (ERC) of Western Electric (later to become part of Bell Labs) in Princeton NJ. But even in those early days, Sid had the vision of utilizing lasers in novel industrial applications. He headed a team that developed diamond die drilling, the first ever industrial application of lasers. That application was so revolutionary and significant, that the equipment was later enshrined for display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Over the following years, Sid led a group of scientists and engineers in developing many industrial applications that later became standards in numerous industries. Chief among these were developments in semiconductor processing, laser metrology, as well as scribing, cutting and drilling of different materials.

Sid was endowed with superb personal and managerial skills that enabled him to build and lead teams that pursued technical challenges with determination and perseverance. He managed to instill devotion and loyalty in the people who worked for him, and earned the respect of those that came into contact with him in the course of business interaction. He was undaunted by difficult challenges, and refused to take “no” as an answer. He had great leadership qualities, inspiring those working for him and with him, and everyone who dealt with him walked away with a positive experience.

While leading technical teams at the ERC, Sid realized the proliferation of industrial laser applications would require the development and acceptance of national laser safety standards. So he devoted a great deal of time and effort to the development of laser safety standards through his leadership roles with the Z136. He steered a few of the original standards through the approval process, while navigating in unchartered waters. His managerial skills proved invaluable in those days.

But above all, Sid will be remembered as a decent guy, a nice person with utmost integrity who was willing to step in and help individuals and organizations in need.  He was a real mensch. – Ami Kestenbaum, Chief Technology Officer, Chestnut Consulting



“I first became aware of Sid and the activities of his group through conversations with some of the folks in the group in which I worked at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, in the late ’60s.  The group at Murray Hill invented and built crude working models of the YAG and a number other lasers. Sid’s group would take these models and turn them into practical and useful systems.  One example is the YAG laser system used for drilling diamond for the wire drawing dies used by Western Electric. I first met Sid in the mid ’70s, about the time he took over as Z136 chairman when George Wilkening stepped down. In spite of the rapid growth of the committee in the ’80s and ’90s, Sid maintained his knack for moving standards along and remaining focused in a job sometimes akin to herding cats. Ami Kestenbaum was secretary. When important points were made (during meetings), Sid would turn to Ami and say, ‘Ya got that, Ami?’ He would just smile and nod.” – Ron Petersen, Consultant, RC Petersen Associates

Of Sid’s many accomplishments, three in particular were instrumental to the growth and current status of LIA. One of the first things he did was bring us the secretariat of the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z136. That is the source of all our standards work and has served to strengthen our training program. Next, he launched the Journal of Laser Applications® (JLA) and served as its original editor-in-chief. He also steered the effort to have LIA take over and manage the International Laser Safety Conference (ILSC®). All told, he was a kind, thoughtful and constructive gentleman who had an indispensable hand in creating the fabric of what we do.” – Peter Baker, Executive Director, Laser Institute of America

About the Author
Steven Glover is a proud member of the LIA staff. When he is not at work he is actively involved in several charitable efforts.
Posted in LIA News Tagged ,