Donald Thornton

Don Thornton specializes in holography and optical physics, with decades of research experience in passive solar holographic daylighting technologies. He is particularly fascinated by visual art holograms, mathematics (non-Euclidean geometries), quantum mechanics, relativity and string theory.

Before joining the faculty at RISD, Thornton ran the holographic research facility at Brown University’s department of Physics and then worked with Hendrik J. Gerritsen and former students in the Advanced Environmental Research Group (AERG) in Cambridge, MA. His focus there was on holographic daylighting, and the group was funded by the Department of Energy’s Solar Building Program.

  • BA, Hamilton College - New York
  • BFA, Rhode Island School of Design
  • MS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


  • SCI-1045-01 Topics In Physics
  • SCI-1007-01 Concepts In Mathematics
  • SCI-1014-01 Optics & Making Holograms


Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History of Art + Visual Culture History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles