Three American "masters of light" who created technologies that made it possible to capture digital images and transmit them and other electronic information long distances won the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics.
Charles K. Kao, a naturalized American who did most of his work in England and Hong Kong, will share half the $1.4-million prize for demonstrating that highly purified fibers of glass can carry light waves for long distances, setting the stage for the globe-girdling fiber-optic networks that transmit the bulk of everyday television, telephone and other communications.
Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, who worked at Bell Laboratories, will share the other half of the award for developing the charge-coupled device, the electronic eye that makes digital photography possible and that in less than two decades has filled the world with inexpensive digital cameras and camera-bearing telephones.
Kao received the Gold Medal of SPIE for his accomplishments in 1992. He has served on the symposium committees for several SPIE meetings on optical communications in the Asia-Pacific region.
The accomplishments of both 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). This book and two other SPIE publications are included in an 8-page background document entitled "The masters of light" published by the Nobel Prize organization, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Additional SPIE-published sources cited:
Dueling Detectors (from oemagazine, 2002), by James Janesick
Scientific Charge-Coupled Devices, by James Janesick (SPIE Press Vol. PM83)