‘Blackout’ throws light on telecomms pioneer
At the age of 80, a Sikh venerated by fellow scientists as the father of fiber optics, has had his achievements reprised for the general public in a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Unusual circumstances turned the light on to the pioneering work over the decades of Dr Narinder Singh Kapany – who lives in California .
Vandals who slashed fiber optic cables left large tracts of San Francisco without telephone and internet connections.
It was a dramatic reminder of how dependent the world has become on the fiber optic cabling that carries signals or images at close to the speed of light.
The Chronicle told readers about the technological breakthroughs achieved by the distinguished scientist and businessman living in their state.
It all began 60 years ago when Dr Kapany, then a physics student at Agra University in India, rejected a professor’s dictum that light always travelled in a straight line, a conviction that stayed in his mind for further deliberation.
A few years later, on a fellowship studying advanced optics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, where his research embraced the principle of total reflection of light, he began to experiment with light beams inside bent glass tubes.
He was interested in applications for medical purposes but came to realise that a fibre optic cable could carry light for many miles.
He founded a business called Optics Technology Inc. which became a pacesetter in the field worldwide, and he succeeded in a number of other notable business ventures.
Dr Kapany holds more than 100 patents for inventions in communications, medicine, solar energy and pollution monitoring, among others.
Now living in Palo Alto, California, he is still active in educational and artistic pursuits, which include university sponsorships and financing a collection of Sikh art at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
He is the founding chairman and a major funder of the Sikh Foundation, which initiates programmes in publishing, academia and the arts.
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