Professor Wolf received a PhD degree from Bristol University (England) in 1948 and a DSc degree from Edinburgh University (Scotland) in 1955. He is presently the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics and professor of optics at the University of Rochester.
Professor Wolf's main researches are in physical optics, particularly in studies of coherence and polarization properties of optical fields, spectroscopy of partially coherent radiation, diffraction and the theory of direct and inverse scattering. He is the co-author with Nobel Laureate Max Born of a well-known book, Principles of Optics, first published in 1959 and now in its seventh edition. He is also the co-author with Leonard Mandel of Optical Coherence and Quantum Optics, published in 1995 and is the author of Introduction to the Theory of Coherence and Polarization of Light, published in 2007. Professor Wolf has been the editor of an ongoing series Progress in Optics since its inception in 1961. Fifty-four volumes have now been published, the first one in 1961. Some of his publications are included in Selected Works of Emil Wolf with Commentary (World Scientific, Singapore, 2001). A volume entitled Tribute to Emil Wolf (SPIE Press, Burlington, WA, 2004) contains much information about his scientific career.
Professor Wolf is the recipient of numerous awards for his scientific contributions and is an honorary member of the Optical Society of America, of which he was the president in 1978. He is also an honorary member of the Optical Societies of India and Australia and is the recipient of seven honorary degrees from Universities in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Denmark, France, the Czech Republic and Canada.
Professor Wolf and his research group at the University of Rochester carry out research chiefly in the theories of coherence and polarization of light and in inverse scattering. Professor Wolf has recently found solution to a classic problem in the theory of reconstruction of crystal structure from diffraction experiment; namely the determination of phases of the diffracted beam.