Biography: Dr. Robert J. Lang

Dr. Robert J. Lang (May 4, 1961) was born in Dayton, Ohio and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, is an American physicist who is also one of the foremost origami artists and theorists in the world. He is known for his complex and elegant designs, most notably of insects and animals.

He has long been a student of the mathematics of origami and of using computers to study the theories behind origami. He has made great advances in making real-world applications of origami to engineering problems.

The marriage of mathematics and origami harkens back to Lang’s own childhood.  As a first-grader, Lang proved far too clever for elementary mathematics and quickly became bored, prompting his teacher to give him a book on origami.

Robert J. Lang Biography

Dr. Robert J. Lang

Lang studied at  California Institute of Technology for his undergraduate work in electrical engineering, where he met his wife-to-be, Diane. He earned a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1983, and returned to Caltech to pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Physics with a dissertation titled “Semiconductor Lasers: New Geometries and Spectral Properties.”

Lang began work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1988. Lang also worked as a research scientist for Spectra Diode Labs of San Jose, California, and then at JDS Uniphase, also of San Jose.  Lang has authored or co-authored over 80 publications on semiconductor lasers, optics, and integrated optoelectronics, and holds 46 patents in these fields.  In 2001, Lang left the engineering field to being a full-time origami artist and consultant.vHowever, he still maintains ties to his physics background: he was the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Quantum Electronics from 2007-2010 and has done part-time laser consulting for Cypress Semiconductor, among others.

Google has approached Lang to make Origami butterflies adorned Google Doodle to celebrate 101th birthday of Akira Yoshizawa.

Origami, as Robert Lang describes it, is simple: “You take a creature, you combine it with a square, and you get an origami figure.” But Lang’s own description belies the technicality of his art; indeed, his creations inspire awe by sheer force of their intricacy. His repertoire includes a snake with one thousand scales, a two-foot-tall allosaurus skeleton, and a perfect replica of a Black Forest cuckoo clock. Each work is the result of software (which Lang himself pioneered) that manipulates thousands of mathematical calculations in the production of a “folding map” of a single creature.

Quotes by Robert Lang

“The secret to productivity in so many fields — and in origami — is letting dead people do your work for you.”

“Origami may someday even save a life.”

Dr. Robert J. Lang Official web site : http://www.langorigami.com/

Robert Lang teaches Origami: Sparrow Video

Robert Lang on TEDtalks video

Interview with Peter Shea at Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota, March 2011

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