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Hermann A. Haus

Institute Professor Hermann A. Haus died of a heart attack May 21 at his home in Lexington. He was 77.

Haus was considered the world expert on optical and electronic noise. He introduced the master equation of mode-locking, now the primary analytic tool for understanding pulsed lasers. He made significant contributions to soliton theory, the study of propagation of a laser pulse. At the time of his death, he was leading an effort to develop integrated photonics in the Optics and Quantum Electronics Group of the Research Laboratory for Electronics, where he was a principal investigator.

In 1995, President Clinton awarded Haus the National Medal of Science, the United States’s highest scientific honor. In 1982, he was awarded the James R. Killian Faculty Achievement Award, the highest honor given by the MIT faculty to a professor.

Christmas parties at the Hauses’ residence were famous for the dinner, the punch, and the elaborate model railroad in the basement. Haus earned the admiration of his students by commuting between MIT and Lexington by bicycle during warm months.

Haus was fluent in several languages, including German, Italian, English, Slovakian, and Latin. His native language was German. This spring he was reading a Slovakian novel, in preparation for a talk he was to give this summer in Ljublana, where he was born. Haus studied other languages by reading classic works of literature. He studied English, for example, with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

Haus was a fellow of three professional organizations: the American Physical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Optical Society of America. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Haus was born in 1925 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He attended the Technische Hochscule in Graz and the Technische Hochschule in Wien, Austria. He came to the United States and studied at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949.

After not being admitted to graduate school at MIT, Haus studied at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1951.

He received his Doctor of Science from MIT in 1954, and joined the faculty upon graduating. He became an associate professor of electrical engineering in 1958, a professor in 1962, Elihu Thompson Professor in 1973, and had been an Institute Professor since 1987 -- a position reserved for at most 12 faculty members, and the highest rank a professor can achieve.

A funeral was held May 27 at the Church of Our Redeemer in Lexington, Mass. Haus is survived by his wife Eleanor, his son and daughter-in-law William and Patti Haus of Maui, Hawaii, his son Stephen of Honolulu, Hawaii, daughter and son-in-law Cristina Haus and Paolo Alimonti, of Irvington, N.Y., daughter and son-in-law Mary Haus and Willard Holmes of New York City, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

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