Linn F. Mollinauer 1937 - 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Linn Frederick Mollenauer, 84, of Silver Spring, Md., and formerly of Colts Neck, N.J., passed away on July 28, 2021, after a long illness.

Linn was born on Jan. 6, 1937, to Alice and Donley Mollenauer and raised in Mt. Lebanon, Pa. A gifted student with a keen mathematical intellect, he received a Bachelor of Engineering Physics degree from Cornell in 1959 and a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford in 1965.

He taught physics for seven years as an associate professor at U.C.-Berkeley and in 1972 moved his family to New Jersey, where he had joined Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, as a research scientist. Thus began an illustrious career focused on the experimental study of solitons in optical fiber pulse propagation and their application to ultra-long-distance transmission. So strong was his belief in the potential of solitons in fiber optics that he defied an order from superiors at Bell Labs to discontinue his experiments. Continued progress and a subsequent breakthrough led management to back down. The Wall Street Journal lauded Linn's efforts in a June 1991 front-page story.

Linn was a fellow of the Optical Society of America, the American Physical Society, IEEE, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1993, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He received many accolades and awards over his long career, including the R.W. Wood Prize in recognition of his invention, development, and application of the F-center laser; the Ballantine Medal of the Franklin Institute, and the prestigious Rank Prize in optoelectronics. He was elected a Bell Labs Fellow in 2001.

When Linn retired from Bell Labs-which by then had become Lucent Technologies-in 2003, he donated his lab to Cornell and became a visiting scientist there. He also served as a guest professor at U.A.-Tucson. In 2005, he co-authored a book, Solitons in Optical Fibers, with his longtime friend and colleague James P. Gordon.

Linn was an environmentalist who loved finding ways to save energy. He was an early adopter of hybrid and electric cars and was proud that his home was powered by solar energy. A lifelong supporter of the arts, Linn especially loved chamber music and poetry. He enjoyed spending time with his family, doing home-improvement projects, traveling, and supporting environmental and social justice causes. He had several wonderful dogs over the years with whom he loved going on walks and long hikes.

Linn was predeceased by his wife of 58 years, Marjorie, in December. He is survived by his sons David Mollenauer (Stephanie Key) of San Antonio, Texas, and James Mollenauer (Christine) of Kensington, Md.; his grandchildren Andrew, Caroline, and William Mollenauer of Kensington, Md.; and his sisters Alice Raymond of Rochester, N.Y., and Mary Jo Mollenauer of Coraopolis, Pa. We will miss his strong and steady presence in our lives and the love and support he showered on us.