ME and Ophelia
Friday, October 09, 2009
Nobel laureate Charles Kuen Kao, the father of fibre optics
From Earth Times by dpa, 08 Oct 2009:
Brilliant mind of Nobel laureate scientist affected by Alzheimer's
(Hong Kong) - The brilliant scientist awarded the Nobel Prize for physics is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and may not be able to give a speech when he collects his prize later this year, a news report said Thursday. Nobel laureate Charles Kuen Kao, the man hailed as the father of fibre optics, was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease earlier this year and now has difficulty with speech.
According to his wife Wong May-wan, Kao finds it difficult to complete a sentence, raising doubts that he will be able to give a lecture on his work, as is traditional for winners of the prize.
A report in the South China Morning Post said Kao, a former vice-chancellor of the Chinese University in Hong Kong, is now living in California with his wife where he is being treated for the disease.
Professor Ambrose King, also a former vice-chancellor at the university, said the Kao had communicated to him via his wife in a phone call after the award was announced.
"His wife said Kao cannot speak very well," he said in the Post. "It would be good if the award came a year earlier. However it is still not too late for him."
Kao, 75, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize on Tuesday for his "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication."
Comments made by Kao following the announcement of the award, in which he said lightheartedly that his inventions had helped the news of the award travel so fast, were made through a university colleague.
Kao, who holds both British and American citizenship, was born in Shanghai in 1933, went to school in Hong Kong and gained his PhD in electrical engineering from Imperial College, London.
His pioneering work, carried out in the 1960s in England, demonstrated that light rather than electricity could be used to transmit speech and data accurately at very high speeds.
It led to 29 patented discoveries and contributed to the development and commercialisation of optical fibre communications that made the technological revolution possible.
Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with Americans Willard Boyle and George Smith for their "invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor" - the electrical eye of a digital camera.
The group will receive their award, a diploma, medal and a share of 10 million kronor (1.4 million dollars), at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10. Kao is to receive half the prize, while Boyle and Smith will each receive a quarter.
Born in Shanghai in November 1933, Kao was educated in London and has dual US-British citizenship.
In 1970, he moved to Hong Kong to establish the electronics division of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and worked on the commercial development of optical fibres and systems.
From 1987 to 1996, he served as university vice chancellor. He also served on a government advisory panel in the then-British colony.