Yaron Silberberg was a well-known leader in a wide range of topics related to photonics: from nonlinear optics, solitons and quantum optics to microscopy, ultrashort pulses, coherent control and more. Not less so, he was a recognized leader of the Israeli optics community and within the Weizmann Institute, a place which he loved dearly.

Yaron was born in 1951 in Giv’atayim. He graduated with a BSc degree in Physics from Tel Aviv University before moving to the Weizmann Institute to study for a MSc degree. After a period of several years where he served in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), he returned to Weizmann to study for his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Asher Friesem. This was followed by a postdoc and employment at Bellcore, where he served as a member of staff for a decade. Yaron returned to Weizmann in 1994 and joined the Department of Complex Systems, where he later on served as Department Head and the Dean of the Faculty of Physics.

In many respects, Yaron was unique in the scientific landscape: unique in the wide range of topics he pursued, unique in the large number of excellent faculty members he has educated over the years, and unique in his personality. What drove Yaron was simply sheer scientific curiosity. He loved nothing more than exploring the laws of light and matter, discussing them with his students, and coming up with elegant ideas on how to demonstrate them in the lab, especially the surprising and unintuitive scenarios. His students quickly learned that Yaron’s words: “hmm.. that’s interesting, don’t you think?” usually marked the birth of a new experiment.

Yaron’s research was unique in its diversity: To cite just a partial list of his major achievements, he introduced the concept of “light bullets”: narrow optical beams carried by ultrashort pulses that maintain their spatial and temporal features without broadening during propagation. He has made the first observation of “discrete solitons” in arrays coupled waveguides. He invented several multiphoton microscopy modalities and employed them for resolving depth in biological tissues. He developed techniques for focusing light through scattering media and employed them to look around corners and through turbid media. Yaron identified similarities between non-classical effects with entangled photons and ultrashort pulses, and accordingly introduced pulse shaping methods there as well. By mixing quantum and classical light Yaron demonstrated the generation of unique non-classical states of light, and, through studying the propagation of entangled photons in waveguide arrays, he developed the understanding of statistical mechanical phenomena in quantum optics. Yaron had the rare ability to move between disciplines, and find completely unexpected connections between fields and topics that were considered unrelated. In fact, Yaron’s research group has “reinvented itself” every few years.

Over the years, Yaron has gained much recognition internationally as a pillar of research excellence. He has won numerous awards, among them the prestigious Max Born Award of the Optical Society of America, the Rothschild Prize, the Weizmann Prize and the Landau Prize and was an elected member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Yet, beyond his own awards and recognitions Yaron took pride in the success of his former students and postdocs, more than half of whom pursued academic tracks and are now professors in Israel and elsewhere.

Yaron passed away in April 2019. His wife Shira, three children Ayelet, Noam and Lior, and many students and friends will forever remember him.