Billionaire founder of IPG Photonics Valentin Gapontsev leaves his legacy as “father of the fiber laser industry”


WORCESTER – He was born in Moscow but built a fortune here in central Massachusetts as the founder of IPG Photonics in Oxford.

Valentin P. Gapontsev, 82, considered the “father of the fiber laser industry”, died on October 22. He was 82 years old.

Gapontsev – the founding billionaire, executive chairman and former CEO of IPG Photonics Corp. at Oxford – is widely recognized for having spearheaded the fiber laser industry in manufacturing reliable, cost effective and higher power solid state lasers to be applied in a variety of uses. The company manufactures fiber lasers that can cut, weld and braze metals and other materials.

Gapontsev, a Russian immigrant and physicist, is survived by his wife, son, grandson and former daughter-in-law.

IPG Photonics Chairman and CEO Eugene Scherbakov said the death of the company’s founder was a “huge loss” both to the IPG community and to the world of photonics as a whole.

“Valentin’s technical innovations, his strategic vision of the capabilities of fiber lasers and his entrepreneurial drive have transformed the laser industry and industrial automation to the point where lasers are finally profitable, reliable and efficient tools that have applications. mass in global industrial production, ”Scherbakov said. in a press release.

Gapontsev’s vision propelled his business even after he stepped down as CEO in April. The legacy that Gapontsev leaves behind runs deep, being the named inventor of over 100 patents, the author of over 200 scientific papers, and the recipient of numerous awards throughout his scientific career.

Born in Moscow in 1939, Gapontsev studied physics at Lviv National Polytechnic University before obtaining his doctorate in physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. From there, Gapontsev started the company that would eventually become IPG Photonics in 1990.

In 2006, Gapontsev received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Industrial Products and Services in New England; in 2009, he received the Arthur L. Schawlow Prize from the Laser Institute of America; in 2010, SPIE ranked Gapontsev among the 28 “laser luminaires” that have made substantial contributions to lasers in the 50 years since the invention of lasers; in 2011, he received the Russian Federation National Prize in Science and Technology and was selected as a member of the Optical Society of America.

This year, Gapontsev earned a spot on Forbes ‘2021 Billionaires List at 1111 and # 359 of Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans in 2020.

“Recognized as the father of the fiber laser industry, his leadership and unique strategies have allowed IPG to be at the forefront of rapid technological developments and will continue to inspire us to strive for greatness in everything we do. Our love and thoughts are with his wife and family during this deeply sad time, ”Scherbakov said.

IPG has manufacturing facilities in Europe and Asia, with sales offices around the world, employing over 6,000 people internationally. In 2020, the company’s revenue was $ 1.2 billion.

As Warren Buffett once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. Even after Gapontsev stepped down as CEO of his company, his foresight guided the innovation and development of new laser, mid-IR, UV and ultrafast laser architectures, based on his extensive knowledge and research on eyewear. laser.

Gapontsev’s experience included more than forty years of experience in the field of non-radiative energy transfer in rare earth ions and solid state materials, which led him to work on the research of ‘an efficient high power fiber laser. IPG now manufactures commercial fiber lasers in the tens of kilowatts, responding to Gapontsev’s research.

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