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Father of Optical Fibre Communications

Father of Optical Fibre Communications – Charles Kuen Kao


Optical Fibre annihilated the cost of communicating over global distances, and so enabled the World Wide Web.

Guiding of light by refraction, the principle that makes fiber optics possible, was first demonstrated by Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet in Paris in the early 1840s.

Mr. Charles Kuen Kao, a Nobel Prize winner dubbed the “father of fiber optics” 

Professor Kao pioneered in the development and use of fiber optics technology, bringing revolutionary changes to modern telecommunication technology. Kao published the theory of how total internal reflection can be used to guide light nearly losslessly in 1966.

Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2009 for his pioneering work in fiber optics. Before he passed away, Kao battled Alzheimer’s disease for years.

Kao’s Theory

Charles Kuen Kao was the visionary who pioneered the use of a single mode dielectric (glass) optical fibre waveguide for long distance communications. This was at a time when the losses of the best available glasses made the idea seem impossible to almost everyone else.

“ for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication ”

…a glass core about three or four microns in diameter, clad with a coaxial layer of another glass having a refractive index smaller than that of the core by about one per cent…

It should be noted that when these methods are perfected, it will be possible to transmit very large quantities of information (telephone, television, data, etc.) between say, the Americas and Europe, along a single undersea cable.

Charles Kao experimenting with a single-mode optical fibre

Kao was born in Jinshan county, East China’s Jiangsu province (today’s Jinshan district of Shanghai) in 1933. He studied at the University of London where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree and his PhD in electrical engineering.

Charles Kao, a Nobel Prize winner dubbed the “father of fiber optics”, died at 84 on Sunday, according to Hong Kong media.

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