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Fellows Directory

Allan Snyder

Professor Allan Snyder FRS


Elected: 1990


Allan Snyder has made fundamental contributions to optical physics, visual neurobiology, and the mind sciences. He innovated the principal theoretical tools used to describe light propagation along optical fibres for telecommunication and sensor applications, including the weak guidance approximation and coupled mode theory. His discoveries about spatial optical solitons foreshadow a light-guiding light technology, wherein light itself directs and manipulates light without any intervening fabricated components.

He pioneered the field of visual photoreceptor optics that describes how cellular material and geometry influences angular, polarisation, and spectral sensitivities of photoreceptors in both compound and simple eyes. His theory that the exceptional skills of autistic savants are accessible to everyone by disinhibiting part of the brain has inspired the use of noninvasive brain stimulation to enhance various aspects of cognition.

Allan founded the Optical Sciences Centre and the Centre for the Mind at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney, respectively. His international awards include the 2001 Marconi Prize, the 1997 International Australia Prize and the Royal Society’s Clifford Paterson Medal.

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Noninvasive brain stimulation, Savants, Soliton optics, Unconscious skills