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The 1999 Galileo Galilei Award has been awarded to Mario Garavaglia of Centro de Investigaciones Opticas, Argentina, in recognition of his scientific contributions to the field of lasers, spectroscopy, interferometry, and holography, as well as applications to industry, medicine and biology, and for promoting optics education and research in Latin America. The Award was established in 1993 to recognise outstanding contributions in the field of optics achieved under comparatively unfavourable circumstances, including difficult economic and social conditions and problems in access to scientific facilities and sources of information. The Award consists of the Galileo Galilei Medal, donated by the Societá Italiana di Ottica e Fotonica, funding of registration and approved local expenses at a major ICO Meeting where the Awarded will give a presentation, and appropriate ICO measures to support the future activities of the winner. The ICO Galileo Galilei Award Subcommittee for 1997-1999 consists of M. J. Yzuel, chair; K. Chalasinska-Macukow, A. Consortini, G. G. Mu, and J. Ojeda-Castañeda. 

Mario Garavaglia was born in Junín (BA), Argentina in 1937. He received his Licenciado Degree in Physics from Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP), Argentina, in 1960, with the thesis entitled "Interference analysis of the hyperfine structure of natural mercury", under the direction of Athos Giacchetti. In 1964-65 he completed his postgraduate studies at Uppsala University, Sweden, on the stimulated emission on natural mercury, under the direction of Kjell Bockasten and Bela Lengyel. In 1965 he received his Ph.D. in Physics from UNLP, Argentina. His thesis was entitled "Laser spectroscopy of neutral mercury"; his adviser was Rafael Grinfeld. In 1969 he was designated adjunct professor of UNLP's Department of Physics. The same year, he was made a member of the Research Career of the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina. His is now a professor of physics at UNLP , and holds the title of Investigador Superior at CONICET. 

Garavaglia has published over 120 research papers in internationally respected journals. Since 1959, his research has focused on subjects including classical and modern optics (1959-present), emission optical spectroscopy (1959-79), laser spectroscopy (1964-81), optical metrology (1966-present), laser physics (1964-present), optics and laser technological applications (1966-present), optics and laser biomedical applications (1978-present), and ophthalmic optics and retinal and brain image processing (1980-present). He has directed 20 Ph.D. thesis, and he has also been co-director or adviser of 14 Ph.D. graduates. 

In 1966 Garavaglia launched the Laboratory of Spectroscopy, Optics and Lasers in the Department of Physics, UNLP. In 1976, he promoted an expansion of the laboratory's activity, and in 1977 he founded the Centro de Investigaciones Opticas (CIOp). He served as its director from 1977 to 1992. CIOp is one the most important institution in optics education and research in Latin America. Inside CIOp, Garavaglia helped to create the only laser processing laboratory in Latin American with a laser industrial installation for research, education, training, and industrial services. In 1992, he was appointed Director of CONICET. For almost three years, he served as a member of the board of directors of CONICET and as a member of its executive committee.

Garavaglia served as the executive secretary of the organizing committee of the First Latin American Seminar on Lasers and Applications to Physics and Chemistry, held in La Plata in 1978. Along with Professor Joseph W. Goodman, he was coordinator of the Argentine delegation to the CONICET-NSF Workshop on Fourier Optics, held in La Plata in 1979. He was also coordinator of the Argentine delegation to the CONICET-NSF Workshop on Laser in Biomedicine, organized at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 1983. Professor Myron Wolbarsht was the NSF coordinator. Professor Dieter Kind, president of the Comité Consultatif pour la Définition du Metre (CCDM), invited him to participate in the 1982 session of his committee. Garavaglia was also member of the World Health Organization and the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) Task Group to prepare the "Environmental Health Criteria Document 23. Lasers and Optical Radiation" (1982). 

Garavaglia has been a lecturer for 65 postgraduate courses on optics, lasers physics, optical technology, laser applications in industry, and laser and optics in biomedicine at academic institutions throughout Latin America. In 1976, the Organization of the American States published his book El Láser.

The Galileo Galilei Award Subcommittee unanimously concluded that the 1999 Award should be given to him for his work on lasers and their applications in industry, medicine and biology and for promoting optics in Latin America. 

1999 ICO Galileo Galilei Award Winner (ICO Newsletter, January 2000).