Walter Wallin was born in Lynn, Massachusetts Nov. 8 1913, the son of Swedish immigrants. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1935 with a BS in Physics, he entered the optics field at Spencer Lens Company in Buffalo, New York, which soon became American Optical Company, Scientific Instrument Division. He became an optical-systems designer under the tutelage of R.K.Luneberg. Walter met and married Sara "Sallie" Short in August, 1937.
About 1940, Wallin worked for Agfa Ansco Corp. in Binghamton, New York where he started an optical laboratory. He left when Agfa Ansco was taken over by the U.S. Treasury Dept. due to ownership by an "enemy alien". He established the optical department at Link Aviation Devices in Binghamton, and was also an instructor at Cornell University, teaching principles of optics. From 1943 to 1946, he was head of the optical department at David White Co. in Milwaukee, where he set up the design group, optical laboratory, and the optical fabrication shop for Ted Salzer. Clifford O. Thomas worked with him there on the Stereo Realist Camera. Wallin concurrently acted as consultant to the University of Chicago Metallurgical Lab on the Manhattan Project,where he worked with George Monk (Chief of the optics lab), Ed Miesse and Bob Ruhloff. In addition to designing hot lab periscopes, he trained personnel and contributed to a project report "Optical Instrumentation" by Monk and McCorkle.
In 1946, Wallin moved his family to California where he became head of the Optics Branch of the (then) Naval Ordinance Test Station at China Lake with Ted Whitney, Wayne Anderson, Roger Estey (who hired Wallin) and Ken Knight. Wallin developed fire control instruments and infra-red guidance for the Sidewinder missile. From 1952 to 1960, he was a West Coast optical consultant, and significantly contributed to the solution of optical design problems in military data reduction, commercial motion picture optics, information storage and retrieval, reconnaissance photography, photo interpretation, and energy transfer. He and his family moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1953, and while Vice President for Research of Panavision, Inc., he solved a major design problem that had limited the development of wide-screen motion picture projection and,with R.E.Gottschalk, developed the "Pantar" anamorphic lens, on which he held the patent. Wally worked closely for many years with Skip Nicholson of Panavision.
On an untimely impulse, Walter sold his share of Panavision and founded Wallin Optical Systems in 1960. He was its President until his death in 1972. Wallin served a large number of aerospace, motion-picture, and photographic equipment clients throughout the Southwest, as designer, consultant, and manufacturer of optical specialties. Employees included Marcel Gawartin (1957-59), Henry Chun (1960-62), and David Grafton. His wife, Sallie Wallin, was an active partner in the business, assisting Walter with administration and technical aspects of lens design, including raytracing.
A popular lecturer, Wallin taught basic and advanced Design of Optical Systems at UCLA from 1954 to 1972. His publications include several in the Journal of the Optical Society of America (JOSA). He was a member of the Optical Society of America for over thirty years, and was active in the Optical Society of Southern California. He was an OSSC Councilor the first three years after the Society was organized 1951-54, Secretary 1954-55, then a Councilor again in 1971-72, twenty years later! He gave the OSSC a presentation on the Panavision anamorphic lenses in the mid-1950's, and arranged a meeting on Movie Special Effects held at a theater in Hollywood in 1971.
Walter had always considered himself a pacifist. He enjoyed mountain climbing, archaeology, gardening, singing, and study of history and religion, in addition to writing poems and short stories, he provided an excellent example of intellect and compassion to his three children and his grandchildren.
Walter Wallin died May 2, 1972 at age 58 of complications following surgery for lung cancer. His eldest daughter Signe Schwartz died two years later. Sallie Wallin died in 1992 in Pacific Pallisades, California Daughter Wendy Wallin and her husband Mark Pandone live in Napa, California. Son Peter Wallin is a lawyer in Santa Monica, California. Signe's widower, Murray Schwartz is President of Kroma, Inc., in Albuquerque, New Mexico.