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SPIE congratulates Nobel physics prize winners Charles Kao, Willard Boyle, George Smith

07 October 2009

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- The science of light commanded world attention this week, as scientists working in fiber optics and charge-coupled devices (CCDs) won the Nobel Prize in physics. Charles Kao, Willard Boyle, and George Smith, whose work developed technologies enabling the digitization and electronic transmission of images and other information, share the prize.

Kao, whose early-career work at Standard Telecommunication Labs suggested that glass would work as an effective medium for carrying light, was awarded half of the $1.4-million prize. Fiber-optic cables now carry most of the world's telecommunications data.

Boyle and Smith, who worked at Bell Labs, share the other half of the award, for developing the CCD image sensor that works with the optical lens to enable digital photography.

Kao received the Gold Medal of SPIE, the Society's highest award, in 1992. He has served on the symposium committees for SPIE meetings on optical communications in the Asia-Pacific region.

"It is wonderful that the prestigious Nobel Prize is awarded to recognize engineering technologies that are making great impact on the advancement of the human society," said Tingye Li. Li is retired from AT&T Labs and has served on program committees for several several SPIE symposia on optical communications.

"SPIE congratulates these extraordinary scientists, whose work paved the way for the sharing of images, research, and other information in a plethora of ways that enrich life and increase understanding among people around the globe," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

"This recognition emphasizes the importance of optics and photonics technologies and their potential for solving the world's challenges in communications, medicine, and numerous other areas," said SPIE President María Yzuel, Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona. "I join my colleagues around the world in celebrating these achievements in fiber-optic and CCD technologies. They are well deserving of the Nobel Prize."

The accomplishments of Kao and of Boyle and Smith were included in a 1990 book published by SPIE, Technology of Our Times: People and Innovation in Optics and Optoelectronics (Frederick Su, Editor).

Read about the relevance of these advances in a story in the Washington Post ("Nobel winners who probably changed your life").

Read more coverage of the awards by BBC News ("Nobel honours 'masters of light' ") and the Los Angeles Times ("3 Americans win Nobel in physics").

Read the Nobel Prize committee announcement.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 188,000 constituents from 138 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world. For more information, visit SPIE.org.

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Media contact:
Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478

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