In memoriam Algis Petras Piskarskas

14 06 2022

Member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
19 December 1942 – 11 June 2022

Algis Petras Piskarskas, one of the most famous Lithuanian scientists, a physicist and the founder of laser science in Lithuania, and a member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, passed away in his 80th year.
A. P. Piskarskas was born in Kėdainiai on 19 December 1942. Having graduated from Salomėja Nėris secondary school in Vilnius in 1959, he started his studies at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at Vilnius University. In 1962, in the third year of his studies, with the help of Academician Povilas Brazdžiūnas, he went to study at Lomonosov Moscow State University from which he graduated in 1965. In 1968, he completed his post-graduate studies there and in 1969 defended his candidate of sciences thesis in physics and mathematics ‘Investigation of pulsed parametric light generation’ (supervisor Sergey Akhmanov). In 1983, he defended his doctoral thesis in physics and mathematics ‘Wide band parametric light generators and their application in  spectroscopy of ultrafast phenomena’. In 1968, he joined the Faculty of Physics at Vilnius University. In 1974, the Department of Astronomy and Quantum Electronics was established at Vilnius University, and in 1978 A. P. Piskarskas was elected head of this department. On his initiative, the Laser Research Centre was founded in the university in 1983 and the Department of Quantum Electronics in 1988. A. P. Piskarskas headed both units; he was also elected a member of the international access consortium LASERLAB-EUROPE. A. P. Piskarskas was the initiator of the international school of laser applications in atomic, molecular and nuclear physics (ISLA).
With his pioneering research in the fields of laser physics, nonlinear optics, ultrafast laser spectroscopy, laser micro-technology, and extreme laser light research, he laid the foundations for Lithuanian laser science. While studying in Moscow, he was one of the first to observe the phenomena of parametric amplification and oscillation of light. Upon his return to Lithuania, he investigated parametric phenomena induced by ultra-short laser pulses in crystals, generation of light filaments, vortices, and X-pulses, processes of ultrafast photosynthesis and of physical photodynamic therapy of tumours, 3D laser microfabrication with femtosecond lasers for the engineering and photonics of bio-tissues. Together with his students, he developed a parametric generator and amplifier for multi-colour ultra-short laser pulses, a spectrometer for ultrafast processes, and the OPCPA technology for parametric amplification of extreme intensity laser pulses, which is extensively used in the laser industry and in scientific research.
He published over 600 research papers (with close to 6000 citations and the h index over 30) and authored 14 inventions. His major publications were in the fields of nonlinear optics, laser physics, and ultrafast laser spectroscopy. A. P. Piskarskas authored and co-authored the monographs ‘Parametric Light Generators and Picosecond Spectroscopy’ (1983), ‘Lasers and Photosynthesis’ (1986), ‘Light Vortices’ (1999), and a dictionary of terms of laser physics. A. P. Piskarskas supervised 21 successfully defended doctoral dissertations.
Professor did research and taught in the USA (Fulbright Programme), Germany, and Italy. He gave invited talks at the universities of Berkeley, Stanford, Oxford, Florida, Munich, Groningen, Leiden, Southampton, Tokyo, London, Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories in the USA, and in numerous international conferences.
A. P. Piskarskas was elected a corresponding member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in 1991, a full member in 1996, and from 2017 he was an emeritus member of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences; he was the vice-president of the Academy from 2001 to 2005 and a member of its presidium from 2009 to 2018. From 1995 to 2003, he was a member of the Research Council of Lithuania, and from 1999 to 2003 he was the vice-president of the Lithuanian Physical Society. Professor Piskarskas was a member of the board of the European Physical Society (1995) and the president of the Lithuanian Laser Association (from 2005 until his death). He served on the editorial boards of the international research journals Optics Communications, Optics and Quantum Electronics, Experimental Techniques of Physics, Nonlinear Modelling and Control, and Moscow University Physics Bulletin and chaired the international advisory committee of the Lithuanian Journal of Physics. He presided over the Alexander von Humboldt Club (from 1994), was a member of the Science and Technology Commission of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (2002–2004), a member of the Council of the Ministry of Economy (2001–2004), and a member of the Lithuanian Knowledge Economy Forum (2004–2008). When he finished his active career, he became a member of the Vilnius University Professors Emeriti Club.
A. P. Piskarskas’s scientific and organisational activities were recognised with numerous awards. He was awarded the USSR State Prize in Science and Technology for research on nonlinear optics in 1984, the Alexander von Humboldt Science Prize in 1992, and, together with Romualdas Danielius and Algirdas Petras Stabinis, the Lithuanian Science Prize for the cycle of papers ‘Light Parametric Phenomena in Crystals (1984–1993)’ in 1994.  In 1999, he was honoured with the Cross of Officer of the Order of Lithuania Grand Duke Gediminas. In 2001, he received the European Physical Society Quantum Electronics Prize for pioneering research and development of ultra-short pulsed light sources based on optical parametric generation and oscillation, and in 2002 he was awarded his second Lithuanian Science Prize for the cycle of papers ‘Photosensitised therapy of tumours: physical, biochemical, preclinical and clinical studies (1986–2000)’, together with Ričardas Rotomskis, Giedrė Virgilija Streckytė, Benediktas Juodka, Vida Kirvelienė, Liudvika Laima Griciūtė, Konstantinas Povilas Valuckas, Laima Bloznelytė-Plėšnienė, and Janina Didžiapetrienė. He was awarded St Christopher’s statuette for his service to the city of Vilnius in 2003 and the Partnership Progress Prize for bringing Lithuanian laser science and industry together to breakthrough into global markets in 2007 (together with Romualdas Danielius, Kęstutis Jasiūnas, and Rimantas Kraujalis). In 2019, he was awarded the Cross of Commander of the Order for Merits to Lithuania.
Lithuania has lost an eminent scientist who elevated the country’s physical sciences to widely respected heights. Our sincere condolences go to the family and relatives of Academician Algis Petras Piskarskas and to the entire academic community. He will remain an authority for many generations of scientists.

Lithuanian Academy of Sciences