Communication pioneers win 2009 physics Nobel prize
Tuesday 06 October 2009
A pioneer in fibre-optics and two scientists who figured out how to turn light into electronic signals - work that paved the way for the Internet age - were awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for physics today.
Charles Kao, a Shanghai-born British-American, won half the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4m) prize for research that led to a breakthrough in fibre-optics, determining how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibres.
Willard Boyle, a Canadian-American, and George Smith of the United States shared the other half for inventing the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor.
"This year's Nobel prize in physics is awarded for two scientic achievements that have helped to shape the foundations of today's networked societies," the award-winning committee said in a statement.
"They have created many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration."
Boyle, raised over the phone to address a news conference at the Nobel committee in the Swedish capital, said he had yet to fully comprehend that he had won the award.
"I have not had my morning cup of coffee yet, so I am feeling a little bit not quite with it all. But I have this lovely feeling all over my body, like 'Wow, this is really quite exciting, but is it real?'" he said.
Kao's work on fibre-optics in 1966 formed the basis for the production of the first "ultrapure" fibre only four years later, setting the stage for the communication society of today.
"These low-gloss glass fibres facilitate global broadband communication such as the Internet," the committee said.
"Text, music, images and video can be transferred around in the globe in a split second."
A large chunk of the traffic is made up of digital images, which is where Boyle and Smith come in. In 1969, they invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor.
"It revolutionised photography, as light can be captured electronically instead of on film," the committee said.
The work by Boyle and Smith, both employed by U.S. Bell Laboratories before retiring more than 20 years ago, led to progress in areas as diverse as microsurgery and space exploration.
"When the Mars probe was on the surface of Mars and (they) used a camera like ours - that wouldn't have been possible without our invention," Boyle said.
But the invention had also has had other repercussions, some considered less welcome by privacy-minded people.
"We are the ones who started this profusion of little, small cameras working all over the world," Boyle added.
The Nobel prizes are handed out annually for achievements in science, peace, literature and economics. The prizes bearing the name of Alfred Nobel were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the 1895 will of the Swedish dynamite millionaire.
- 1 Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Scotland independence vote: Everything you ever wanted to know about life after the result
Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
David Haines beheading: David Cameron says Britain will hunt down Isis 'monsters' shown in video murdering aid worker
Dorset named best place to retire in England and Wales
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...
£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...
£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...
£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...