Charles K. Kao

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Charles K. Kao

Charles K. Kao cropped 2.jpg
Charles K. Kao receiving an honorary degree from Princeton University in 2004
Native name
高錕
Born
Charles Kuen Kao

(1933-11-04)4 November 1933
Died23 September 2018(2018-09-23) (aged 84)
Residence Republic of China (1933–1948)
Hong Kong (1949–2018) [2]
United Kingdom (1952–1970)
United States
Citizenship United States
United Kingdom [1]
Alma mater University College London [3] (PhD 1965, issued by University of London [1] )
Woolwich Polytechnic (BSc 1957, issued by University of London[ citation needed ])
Known for Fibre optics
Fibre-optic communication
Awards
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Chinese University of Hong Kong
ITT Corporation
Yale University
Standard Telephones and Cables
Doctoral advisor Harold Barlow
Charles K. Kao
Traditional Chinese 高錕
Simplified Chinese 高锟

Sir Charles Kuen Kao GBM KBE FRS FREng [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] (4 November 1933 – 23 September 2018) was a physicist and electrical engineer who pioneered the development and use of fibre optics in telecommunications. In the 1960s, Kao created various methods to combine glass fibres with lasers in order to transmit digital data, which laid the groundwork for the evolution of the Internet.

Grand Bauhinia Medal

The Grand Bauhinia Medal is the highest award under the Hong Kong honours and awards system; it is to recognise the selected person's lifelong and highly significant contribution to the well-being of Hong Kong. The awardee is entitled to the postnominal letters GBM and the style The Honourable. The award was created in 1997 to replace the British honours system, following the transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Bauhinia, Bauhinia blakeana, is the floral emblem of Hong Kong.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Royal Society National academy of science in the United Kingdom

The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement. It also performs these roles for the smaller countries of the Commonwealth.

Contents

Known as the "Godfather of Broadband", [11] the "Father of Fiber Optics", [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] and the "Father of Fiber Optic Communications", [17] [18] Kao was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication". [19]

Nobel Prize in Physics One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Born in Shanghai, China, Kao was a permanent resident of Hong Kong [20] and held citizenships in the United Kingdom and the United States. [1]

Shanghai Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Shanghai is one of the four municipalities of the People's Republic of China. Located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze with a population of 24.2 million as of 2018, it is the most populous urban area in China, and the second most populous city proper in the world. Shanghai is a global financial, innovation and technology, and transportation hub, with the world's busiest container port.

Early life and education

Charles Kao was born in Shanghai, China in 1933, [21] :1 and his ancestral home is in nearby Jinshan, [21] :13 at that time a separate administrative area. [22] [23] He studied Chinese classics at home with his brother, under a tutor. [2] [21] :41 He also studied English and French at the Shanghai World School (上海世界學校) in the Shanghai French Concession [24] which was founded by a number of progressive Chinese educators including Cai Yuanpei. [25]

Jinshan District District in Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China

Jinshan District, is a suburban district of southwestern Shanghai, neighboring Zhejiang province and Hangzhou Bay. It has a land area of 586.14 square kilometers (226.31 sq mi) and a population of 732,500 as of the 2010 Chinese census. Jinshan District, located in the southwest of Shanghai, is one of the biggest districts of the city. Local political administration is divided into nine towns and one subdistrict. About 6.2 kilometers (3.9 mi) off the coast of Jinshan, there are three islands named Da Jinshan, Xiao Jinshan, and Fushan. At 103 meters (338 ft) above sea level, the peak of Dajinshan Island is the highest point within the Shanghai municipality. There are several beaches along the 23.3-kilometer (14.5 mi) shoreline, which are popular tourism destinations.

Chinese classic texts or canonical texts refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics" of the Neo-Confucian tradition, themselves a customary abridgment of the "Thirteen Classics". All of these pre-Qin texts were written in classical Chinese. All three canons are collectively known as the classics.

Shanghai French Concession French sphere of influence in Shanghai, China

The Shanghai French Concession was a foreign concession in Shanghai, China from 1849 until 1943, which progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in 1943 when the French State under German pressure signed it over to the pro-Japanese Reorganized National Government of China in Nanjing. For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai, and was also one of the centres of Catholicism in China. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character and is a popular tourist destination.

Kao's family moved to Taiwan and then British Hong Kong in 1948 [21] :1 [26] where he completed his secondary education (Hong Kong School Certificate Examination, a predecessor of HKCEE [27] ) [28] at St. Joseph's College in 1952. He did his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at Woolwich Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich), [29] obtaining his Bachelor of Engineering degree. [21] :1[ non-primary source needed ]

British Hong Kong Crown colony and British dependent territory in East Asia between 1841 and 1997

British Hong Kong was Hong Kong when it was governed as a colony and British Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom. Hong Kong was under British rule from 1841 and was briefly occupied by Japan from 1941 to 1945 before surrendering the territory back to British forces, resuming British rule from 1945 to 1997. The colonial period began with the occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841 during the First Opium War. The island was ceded by Qing dynasty in the aftermath of the war in 1842 and established as a Crown colony in 1843. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898.

Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination

The Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination was a standardised examination between 1974 and 2011 after most local students' five-year secondary education, conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), awarding the Hong Kong Certificate of Education secondary school leaving qualification. The examination has been discontinued in 2012 and its roles are now replaced by the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education as part of educational reforms in Hong Kong.

Electrical engineering Field of engineering that deals with electricity

Electrical engineering is a technical discipline concerned with the study, design and application of equipment, devices and systems which use electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. It emerged as an identified activity in the latter half of the 19th century after commercialization of the electric telegraph, the telephone, and electrical power generation, distribution and use.

He then pursued research and received his PhD in electrical engineering in 1965 from University of London, under Professor Harold Barlow of University College London as an external student while working at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) in Harlow, England, the research centre of Standard Telephones and Cables. [3] It is there that Kao did his first groundbreaking work as an engineer and researcher working alongside George Hockham under the supervision of Alec Reeves.[ citation needed ]

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

University of London federal public university in London, United Kingdom

The University of London is a federal research university located in London, England. As of October 2018, the university contains 18 member institutions, central academic bodies and research institutes. The university has over 52,000 distance learning external students and 161,270 campus-based internal students, making it the largest university by number of students in the United Kingdom.

Harold Everard Monteagle Barlow FRS was a British engineer.

Ancestry and family

Kao's father Kao Chun-Hsiang  [ zh ] (高君湘) [21] :13 was a lawyer who obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 1925. [30] He was a professor at Soochow University (then in Shanghai) Comparative Law School of China. [31] [32]

His grandfather Gao Xie was a scholar, poet, artist, [2] and a leading figure of the South Society during the late Qing Dynasty. [33] Several writers including Gao Xu, Yao Guang  [ zh ] (姚光), and Gao Zeng  [ zh ] (高增) were also Gao's close relatives.[ citation needed ]

His father's cousin was astronomer Kao Ping-tse [2] [34] (Kao crater is named after him [35] ). Kao's younger brother Timothy Wu Kao (高鋙) is a civil engineer and Professor Emeritus at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His research is in hydrodynamics. [36]

Kao met his future wife Gwen May-Wan Kao (née Wong; 黃美芸) in London after graduation, when they worked together as engineers at Standard Telephones and Cables. [21] :23 [37] [ unreliable source? ] She is British Chinese. [21] :17 They were married in 1959 in London, [21] :15–17 [38] and had a son and a daughter, [38] both of whom reside and work in Silicon Valley, California. [11] [37] [39] [ unreliable source? ] According to Kao's autobiography, Kao was a Catholic who attended Catholic Church while his wife attended Anglican Communion. [21] :14–15

Academic career

Fibre optics and communications

A bundle of silica glass fibres for optical communication, which are the de facto worldwide standard. Kao also first publicly suggested that silica glass of high purity is an ideal material for long range optical communication. Fibreoptic.jpg
A bundle of silica glass fibres for optical communication, which are the de facto worldwide standard. Kao also first publicly suggested that silica glass of high purity is an ideal material for long range optical communication.

In the 1960s at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL) based in Harlow, Essex, Kao and his co-workers did their pioneering work in the realisation of fibre optics as a telecommunications medium, by demonstrating that the high-loss of existing fibre optics arose from impurities in the glass, rather than from an underlying problem with the technology itself. [41]

In 1963, when Kao first joined the optical communications research team he made notes summarising the background [42] situation and available technology at the time, and identifying the key individuals [42] involved. Initially Kao worked in the team of Antoni E. Karbowiak (Toni Karbowiak), who was working under Alec Reeves to study optical waveguides for communications. Kao's task was to investigate fibre attenuation, for which he collected samples from different fibre manufacturers and also investigated the properties of bulk glasses carefully. Kao's study primarily convinced himself that the impurities in material caused the high light losses of those fibres. [43] Later that year, Kao was appointed head of the electro-optics research group at STL. [44] He took over the optical communication program of STL in December 1964, because his supervisor, Karbowiak, left to take the Chair in Communications in the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia. [45]

Although Kao succeeded Karbowiak as manager of optical communications research, he immediately decided to abandon Karbowiak's plan (thin-film waveguide) and overall change research direction with his colleague George Hockham. [43] [45] They not only considered optical physics but also the material properties. The results were first presented by Kao to the IEE in January 1966 in London, and further published in July with George Hockham (1964–1965 worked with Kao). [46] a[] This study first theorized and proposed to use glass fibres to implement optical communication, the ideas (especially structural features and materials) described are largely the basis of today's optical fibre communications.[ citation needed ]

In 1965, [44] [47] b[] Kao with Hockham concluded that the fundamental limitation for glass light attenuation is below 20 dB/km ( decibels per kilometer, is a measure of the attenuation of a signal over a distance), which is a key threshold value for optical communications. [48] However, at the time of this determination, optical fibres commonly exhibited light loss as high as 1,000 dB/km and even more. This conclusion opened the intense race to find low-loss materials and suitable fibres for reaching such criteria.[ citation needed ]

Kao, together with his new team (members including T. W. Davies, M. W. Jones, and C. R. Wright), pursued this goal by testing various materials. They precisely measured the attenuation of light with different wavelengths in glasses and other materials. During this period, Kao pointed out that the high purity of fused silica (SiO2) made it an ideal candidate for optical communication. Kao also stated that the impurity of glass material is the main cause for the dramatic decay of light transmission inside glass fibre, rather than fundamental physical effects such as scattering as many physicists thought at that time, and such impurity could be removed. This led to a worldwide study and production of high-purity glass fibres. [49] When Kao first proposed that such glass fibre could be used for long-distance information transfer and could replace copper wires which were used for telecommunication during that era, his ideas were widely disbelieved; later people realized that Kao's ideas revolutionized the whole communication technology and industry. [50]

He also played a leading role in the early stage of engineering and commercial realization of optical communication. [51] In spring 1966, Kao traveled to the U.S. but failed to interest Bell Labs, which was a competitor of STL in communication technology at that time. [52] He subsequently traveled to Japan and gained support. [52] Kao visited many glass and polymer factories, discussed with various people including engineers, scientists, businessmen about the techniques and improvement of glass fiber manufacture. In 1969, Kao with M. W. Jones measured the intrinsic loss of bulk-fused silica at 4 dB/km, which is the first evidence of ultra-transparent glass. Bell Labs started considering fibre optics seriously. [52]

Kao developed important techniques and configurations for glass fibre waveguides, and contributed to the development of different fibre types and system devices which met both civil and military c[] application requirements, and peripheral supporting systems for optical fiber communication. [51] In mid-1970s, he did seminal work on glass fiber fatigue strength. [51] When named the first ITT Executive Scientist, Kao launched the "Terabit Technology" program in addressing the high frequency limits of signal processing, so Kao is also known as the "Father of the Terabit Technology Concept". [51] [53] Kao has published more than 100 papers and was granted over 30 patents, [51] including the water-resistant high-strength fibers (with M. S. Maklad). [54]

At an early stage of developing optic fibres, Kao already strongly preferred single mode for long-distance optical communication, instead of using multi-mode systems. His vision later was followed and now is applied almost exclusively. [49] [55] Kao was also a visionary of modern submarine communications cables and largely promoted this idea. He predicted in 1983 that world's seas would be littered with fibre optics, five years ahead of the time that such a trans-oceanic fibre-optic cable first became serviceable. [56]

Ali Javan's introduction of a steady helium–neon laser and Kao's discovery of fibre light-loss properties now are recognized as the two essential milestones for the development of fiber-optic communications. [45]

Later work

Kao joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1970 to found the Department of Electronics, which later became the Department of Electronic Engineering. During this period, Kao was the reader and then the chair Professor of Electronics at CUHK; he built up both undergraduate and graduate study programmes of electronics and oversaw the graduation of his first students. Under his leadership, the School of Education and other new research institutes were established. He returned to ITT Corporation in 1974 (the parent corporation of STC at that time) in the United States and worked in Roanoke, Virginia, first as Chief Scientist and later as Director of Engineering. In 1982, he became the first ITT Executive Scientist and was stationed mainly at the Advanced Technology Center in Connecticut. [15] While there, he served as an adjunct professor and Fellow of Trumbull College at Yale University. In 1985, Kao spent one year in West Germany, at the SEL Research Centre. In 1986, Kao was the Corporate Director of Research at ITT.

He was one of the earliest to study the environmental effects of land reclamation in Hong Kong, and presented one of his first related studies at the conference of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) in Edinburgh in 1972. [57]

Kao was the vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1987 to 1996. [58] From 1991, Kao was an Independent Non-Executive Director and a member of the Audit Committee of the Varitronix International Limited in Hong Kong. [59] [60] From 1993 to 1994, he was the President of the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning (ASAIHL). [61] In 1996, Kao donated to Yale University, and the Charles Kao Fund Research Grants was established to support Yale's studies, research and creative projects in Asia. [62] The fund currently is managed by Yale University Councils on East Asian and Southeast Asian Studies. [63] After his retirement from CUHK in 1996, Kao spent his six-month sabbatical leave at the Imperial College London Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering; from 1997 to 2002, he also served as visiting professor in the same department. [64]

Kao was chairman and member of the Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) of Hong Kong for two years, and retired from the position on July 15, 2000. [65] [66] Kao was a Member of the Council of Advisors on Innovation and Technology of Hong Kong, appointed on April 20, 2000. [67] In 2000, Kao co-founded the Independent Schools Foundation Academy, which is located in Cyberport, Hong Kong. [68] He was its founding Chairman in 2000, and stepped down from the Board of the ISF in December 2008. [68] Kao was the keynote speaker at IEEE GLOBECOM 2002 in Taipei, Taiwan. [69] In 2003, Kao was named a Chair Professor by special appointment at the Electronics Institute of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, National Taiwan University. [69] Kao then worked as the chairman and CEO of Transtech Services Ltd., a telecommunication consultancy in Hong Kong. He was the founder, chairman and CEO of ITX Services Limited. From 2003 to January 30, 2009, Kao was an independent non-executive director and member of the audit committee of Next Media. [70] [71]

Honours and awards

Kao received numerous honours and awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Honours

Society and academy recognition

Honorary degrees

Alexander Graham Bell, pioneer of telecommunication and an alumnus of University College London (UCL), was awarded the first U.S. patent for telephone in 1876. After 90 years in 1966, Kao and Hockham published their groundbreaking article in fiber-optic communication. Kao is also an alumnus of UCL, and was awarded the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Medal of IEEE in 1985. Kao was awarded an honorary doctorate by UCL in 2010. Alexander Graham Bell.jpg
Alexander Graham Bell, pioneer of telecommunication and an alumnus of University College London (UCL), was awarded the first U.S. patent for telephone in 1876. After 90 years in 1966, Kao and Hockham published their groundbreaking article in fiber-optic communication. Kao is also an alumnus of UCL, and was awarded the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Medal of IEEE in 1985. Kao was awarded an honorary doctorate by UCL in 2010.

Awards

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of wireless telecommunication, was awarded half of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 2009, the century anniversary of Marconi's Nobel, Kao was awarded half of the same prize for his pioneer work on optical fibre which has "rewired the world". Kao was also awarded the Marconi Prize in 1985, and is a Fellow of the Marconi Society. Guglielmo Marconi.jpg
Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of wireless telecommunication, was awarded half of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 2009, the century anniversary of Marconi's Nobel, Kao was awarded half of the same prize for his pioneer work on optical fibre which has "rewired the world". Kao was also awarded the Marconi Prize in 1985, and is a Fellow of the Marconi Society.

Kao donated most of his prize medals to the Chinese University of Hong Kong. [72]

Namesakes

The landmark auditorium in the Hong Kong Science Park has been named after Kao since December 30, 2009. HK SciencePark Auditorium.JPG
The landmark auditorium in the Hong Kong Science Park has been named after Kao since December 30, 2009.

Others

Later life and death

Kao's international travels led him to opine that he belonged to the world instead of any country. [134] [135] An open letter published by Kao and his wife in 2010 later clarified that "Charles studied in Hong Kong for his high schooling, he has taught here, he was the Vice-Chancellor of CUHK and retired here too. So he is a Hong Kong belonger." [136]

Pottery making, a traditional Chinese handiwork, was a hobby of Kao's. Kao also enjoyed reading Wuxia novels. [137]

On October 6, 2009, when Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the study of the transmission of light in optical fibres and for fibre communication, [138] he said, "I am absolutely speechless and never expected such an honour". [18] [139] Kao's wife Gwen told the press that the prize will primarily be used for Charles's medical expenses, [140] after paying tax to the US government. In 2010 Charles and Gwen Kao founded the Charles K. Kao Foundation for Alzheimer's Disease to raise public awareness about the disease and provide support for the patients.

Kao suffered from Alzheimer's disease from early 2004 and had speech difficulty, but had no problem recognising people or addresses. [141] Kao's father also suffered from the same disease. Beginning in 2008, he resided in Mountain View, California, United States, where he moved from Hong Kong in order to live near his children and grandchild. [11]

In 2016, Kao lost the ability to maintain his balance. At the end-stage of his dementia he was cared for by his wife and intended not to be kept alive with life support or have CPR performed on him. [142] Kao died at Bradbury Hospice in Hong Kong on 23 September 2018 at the age of 84. [143] [144] [145] [146]

Notes

^  a: Kao's major task was to investigate light-loss properties in materials of optic fibers, and determine whether they could be removed or not. Hockham's was investigating light-loss due to discontinuities and curvature of fibre.
^  b: Some sources show around 1964, [147] [148] for example, "By 1964, a critical and theoretical specification was identified by Dr. Charles K. Kao for long-range communication devices, the 10 or 20 dB of light loss per kilometer standard." from Cisco Press . [147]
^  c: In 1980, Kao was awarded the Gold Medal from American Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association , "for contribution to the application of optical fiber technology to military communications". [51]
^  d: In the United States National Academy of Engineering Membership Website, Kao's country is indicated as People's Republic of China. [82]
^  e: OFC/NFOEC – Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference [127]

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Monographs

Further reading

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Andrew Viterbi
IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal
1985
Succeeded by
Bernard Widrow
Preceded by
Nick Holonyak
Japan Prize
1996
Succeeded by
Takashi Sugimura and
Bruce N. Ames
Preceded by
Yoichiro Nambu,
Makoto Kobayashi, and
Toshihide Maskawa
Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics
with Willard Boyle and George E. Smith

2009
Succeeded by
Andre Geim and
Konstantin Novoselov
Academic offices
Preceded by
Ma Lin
Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
1987–1996
Succeeded by
Arthur Li