Narinder Singh Kapany

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Narinder Singh Kapany
Born (1926-10-31) 31 October 1926 (age 93)
Nationality Indian, American
Alma mater Agra University
Imperial College London
Known forPioneering work on Fiber optics
Awards Pravasi Bharatiya Samman
The Excellence 2000 Award
FREng [2] (1998)
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Agra University
Ordnance Factories Board
Imperial College of Science
British Royal Academy of Engineering [2]
Optical Society of America
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Stanford University

Narinder Singh Kapany (Punjabi : ਨਰਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ) (born 31 October 1926) is an Indian-born American physicist known for his work in fibre optics. [3] [4] [5] [6] He was named as one of the seven "Unsung Heroes" by Fortune in their 'Businessmen of the Century' issue (1999-11-22). [4] [5] [6] He is also known as "Father of Fiber Optics". [7] [8] The term fibre optics was coined by Singh Kapany in 1956. [9] He is a former IOFS officer. [1]


Early life and research

Kapany was born to a Sikh Khatri family in Moga, Punjab, and studied at Agra University. [1] He served briefly as an Indian Ordnance Factories Service officer, before going to Imperial College London in 1952 to work on a Ph.D. degree in optics, which he obtained in 1955. [1]

At Imperial College, Kapany worked with Harold Hopkins on transmission through fibers, achieving good image transmission through a large bundle of optical fibers for the first time in 1953. [10] [11] [12] Optical fibers had been tried for image transmission before, but Hopkins and Kapany's technique allowed much better image quality than could previously be achieved. This, combined with the almost-simultaneous development of optical cladding by Dutch scientist Bram van Heel, started the new field of fibre optics. Kapany coined the term 'fibre optics' in an article in Scientific American in 1960, wrote the first book about the new field, and was the new field's most prominent researcher, writer, and spokesperson. [10] [13] [14]

Kapany's research and work have encompassed fibre-optics communications, lasers, biomedical instrumentation, solar energy and pollution monitoring. He has over one hundred patents, and was a member of the National Inventors Council. He is an International Fellow [2] of numerous scientific societies including the British Royal Academy of Engineering, [2] the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Businessman and entrepreneur

Optical fibres Fibreoptic.jpg
Optical fibres

As an entrepreneur and business executive, Kapany has specialised in the processes of innovation and the management of technology and technology transfer. In 1960, he founded Optics Technology Inc. and was chairman of the board, President, and Director of Research for twelve years. In 1967 the company went public with numerous corporate acquisitions and joint-ventures in the United States and abroad. In 1973, Kapany founded Kaptron Inc. and was President and CEO until 1990 when he sold the company to AMP Incorporated. For the next nine years, Kapany was an AMP Fellow, heading the Entrepreneur & Technical Expert Program and serving as Chief Technologist for Global Communications Business. He recently founded K2 Optronics. He has also served on the boards of various companies. He was a member of the Young Presidents Organization and later was a member of the World presidents Organization.[ citation needed ]

As an academic, Kapany has taught and supervised research activity of postgraduate students. He was a Regents Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). He was also Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED) at UCSC for seven years. At Stanford University, he was a Visiting Scholar in the Physics Department and Consulting Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. [15]

Research scholar

As an author and lecturer, Kapany has published over 100 scientific papers and four books on opto-electronics and entrepreneurship. He has lectured to various national and international scientific societies. His article on Fibre optics in Scientific American in 1960 established the term "fibre optics". In November 1999, Fortune magazine published profiles of seven people who have greatly influenced life in the twentieth century but are unsung heroes. Kapany was one of them. [6]


As a philanthropist, Kapany has been active in education and the arts. He was the founding chairman of the Sikh Foundation and has been a major funder of its activities for over 50 years. [16] In collaboration with international institutions and publishers, the Foundation runs programs in publishing, academia and the arts. In 1998, Kapany endowed a Chair of Sikh Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His gift in 1999 of $500,000 to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco will establish a gallery in its new building displaying the works he has donated from his collection of Sikh art. In 1999, he endowed a Chair of Opto-Electronics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is also trustee of the University of California, Santa Cruz Foundation. [17] He has served as a trustee of the Menlo School in Menlo Park, California.[ citation needed ]

As an art collector, Kapany has specialised in Sikh art. He provided paintings and other objects on loan for the "Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms" exhibition, which was held at London's Victoria & Albert Museum beginning in March 1999. [18] From there, the exhibition proceeded to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (with the Sikh Foundation as a sponsor) and opened in May 2000 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The exhibition follows "Splendors of the Punjab: Sikh Art and Literature in 1992" organised by Kapany in collaboration with the Asian Art Museum and UC Berkeley to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sikh Foundation. [19] As an artist, Kapany has created 40 "dynoptic" sculptures which were first displayed in a one-man show at the Exploratorium of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1972. Since then, the collection has been viewed at museums and art galleries in Chicago, Monterey, Palo Alto, and Stanford.[ citation needed ]

Awards & Recognition

He has received many awards including "The Excellence 2000 Award" from the USA Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce in 1998. In 1999, he was identified by Fortune Magazine as an "unsung Hero" in the "Businessmen of the Century" issue. [20] He received the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Fiat Lux Award in 2008. [21] [22]

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