Obituary: Emeritus Professor John Love 1942-2016

Written by Professor John Close, ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.


Professor John Love was a leading star in his research field, and an inspiring teacher.

For more than 40 years, he had a major impact on research and development which contributed to the explosion of the fibre optic telecommunications industry while also advocating strongly for the education and training of aspiring students in photonics.

He founded the photonics program in the Physics Education Centre at ANU and was a co-author of the classic textbook, Optical Waveguide Theory, a standard reference for a generation of scientists and engineers working in the field of optics and photonics.

More recently, John was active in facilitating the exposure of the vast and rapidly emerging breadth of optical science in China to the global scientific community. This is exemplified through his contribution to the founding of the new journal Light, Science & Applications that is part of the Nature Publishing Group headquartered in China. This has become a cornerstone in the family of optics and photonics journals.

John was always asking questions, and he was prepared to ask, listen, discuss and learn from anyone, whether it was a bright undergraduate student or a Nobel Prize winner. It was this characteristic along with his deep understanding of physics, mathematics and technology that made him a highly respected and well-liked lecturer, supervisor and mentor.

John did everything with the smile that we all know, with passion and with a healthy intensity. In his words and actions, he expressed his respect for his students, his friends and colleagues and his respect for the Research School of Physics and Engineering, the University and the academic pursuit of truth and knowledge. He was a man of great integrity.

John was well liked and well respected by his colleagues. He had many friends in the academic community at ANU, nationally and internationally. Those of us who were privileged to work closely with John admired him for his talents, for his energy and for his tenacity that contributed so broadly to the success and reputation of the Research School of Physics and Engineering and ANU, and contributed greatly to the success of so many of us.   

John thrived on the academic life. He was unique.

He was enigmatic in the best of ways. In one breath, he would be discussing physics, technology and their impact on society, or perhaps history, politics or art. In the next, he would share a joke with his characteristic sense of humour or would share an unusual insight into life. Later in the day, he might recount his weekend trip on a forgotten train. Trains and railways were a lifelong interest for John.

After 40 years at ANU, John created the Love Endowment, a scholarship set up to help ANU students whose circumstances would have prevented them from being able to study at university.

John loved the outdoors, and when he wasn’t at work or bushwalking, he was often working in his garden.

He would regularly invite his colleagues and friends to lunch or dinner at his place in Melba. He was a wonderful host and dinners with John were welcoming, warm and entertaining.John was a true gentleman and a scholar. Most importantly, he was a respected colleague and friend to many of us. We will miss him.