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An event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the first working laser and the award of the 2009 Nobel Prize to Professor Charles Kao CBE FREng FRS

A day of celebration- June 17th, 2010

There are two recent events of great significance to all UK scientists and engineers. First was the award of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics to Charles Kao, for his invention of Fibre Optic Communications, an invention that now unites the whole world. Kao's research was carried out at the Standard Telecommunications Laboratory, in Harlow, Essex. The second event is the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser. The Nobel Prize for its conception was awarded in 1964 to Charles Townes, Nicolai Basov, and Alexander Prokhorov. Though this was not a UK invention, the UK has been a leader in many improvements of the device, and has been ingenious in its exploitation.

The Royal Academy of Engineering recognizes the importance of these discoveries, and has sponsored a day of celebration, assisted by the Royal Society, University College London, the Rank Prize Funds. the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and the Institute of Physics. Charles Kao is a Fellow of both the Academy and the Society, and his PhD came from study at UCL under the supervision of Professor Harold Barlow. The Rank Prize Funds recognized early the seminal nature of Kao's research, and he won an RPF Award for Optoelectronics in 1978.

The abilities of Charles Townes were also acknowledged early in the UK, and in 1963 he was awarded the Thomas Young Medal of the Institute of Physics. He was elected an FRS in 1976, and has many close associations with UK physicists. The importance of the laser has been signalled by seven generous prizes for improvements and applications by the Rank Prize Funds.

The celebrations will be held at the Royal Academy on June 17th, and both Nobel Laureates, Charles Kao and Charles Townes will be present.

Laser History

Professor Charles Kao


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