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Fellows Directory

Kuen Kao

Kuen Kao

Sir Kuen Kao CBE FREng FRS


Elected: 1997


Charles Kao was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and electrical engineer who was widely known as the father of fibre optic communications. Through his pioneering techniques to purify glass fibres in order to reduce signal loss, he helped bring about the infrastructure required to support the Information Age.

Charles first observed the potential of glass filaments to allow for long-distance signal transfer in 1966 and has worked tirelessly to improve their effectiveness and reliability. His vision and determination allowed him to overcome the numerous materials and engineering challenges surrounding the development of fibre optics, and resulted in the birth of a multibillion pound global industry.

Awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics, Charles was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the same year. The recipient of numerous international awards and honorary doctorates, he also held the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest award bestowed by the city of Hong Kong.

Sir Charles Kao KBE FREng FRS died on 23 September 2018.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Engineering
    • Communications incl information theory


  • Japan Prize

    In the field of information, computer and communication systems for pioneering research on wideband, low-loss optical fiber communications.

  • Nobel Prize in Physics

    Half of prize for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.

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