If anyone can claim to have rewired the planet it is Professor Sir Charles Kao CBE FREng FRS, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics 2009. The first person to propose a practical optical fibre communication system, he helped to lay the technological foundations of the internet. On 17 June 2010 he visited the Academy for a special event to mark 50 years of lasers and their application to communication.

Our other guest of honour was Professor Charles Townes FRS, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964, who spoke about his invention of the laser 50 years ago.

Professor Townes and Professor Kao were joined by many pioneers of lasers and optical fibres, who developed and commercialised their original work, and also by some of today’s cutting edge researchers, who told delegates about the future for laser technology and optical communication. These range from the high-power fibre lasers used in the world’s largest laser at the US National Ignition Facility to the use of lasers in ‘optical needles’ for injecting DNA into cells. They also discussed the implications of optical fibre communication on social interaction through the internet and social networking.

Notes for editors

  1. This celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser and its application to communication was jointly sponsored by the Rank Prize Funds, the Royal Society, University College London, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Physics and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton