A distinguished researcher, public servant, educator and professional society leader, Dr. Jean Bennett is remembered for her scientific contributions and as a forerunner for women throughout the optics field.
In 1955, she was the first woman to earn a PhD in physics from Pennsylvania State University. A career with the Naval Weapons Center (now the Naval Air Warfare Center) followed. In 1988, she won the Naval Weapons Center L.T.E. Thompson Award for scientific achievements in optics technology. In 1993, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award of Women Scientists & Engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. She was also named a Distinguished Fellow of the Naval Weapons Center.
Dr. Bennett dedicated energy to Optica (formerly OSA) with terms as editor for Applied Optics and Optics Express and serving on the Optica Board of Directors and other governance posts. In 1986, she was the first woman elected President of the Society; she was the first woman Fellow Emeritus Member years later. The Optica Foundation's Jean Bennett Memorial Student Travel Grant recognizes her legacy as an educator.
She is further memorialized by Optica and the University of Arizona Wyant College of Optical Sciences with the Jean M. Bennett Optica Endowed Chair. This is the College’s first endowed chair named in honor of a woman scientist.