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Charles K. Kao

AKA Charles Kuen Kao

Born: 4-Nov-1933
Birthplace: Shanghai, China

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Asian
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Fiber optics

Charles K. Kao's research formed the basis for fiber optics the transmission system fundamental to everything from instant messaging to the World Wide Web for which he won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics. In a 1966 paper written while he worked at Standard Telephones and Cables, Kao showed that light could be transmitted over long distances using extremely thin glass filaments. In later studies, he demonstrated that these optical signals could be sent over with great clarity and speed and at unprecedented volumes.

Kao was born in Shanghai, but his family fled to British-ruled Hong Kong when Kao was about 15. He is a dual citizen of the UK and US, and resides in California, where he is being treated for increasing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, a regenerative brain condition. His name is sometimes presented in English as Gāo Kūn or Kao Kuen, and his early research was conducted in collaboration with George Hockham, a co-worker at Standard Telephones and Cables.

Father: Kao Chun-Hsiang (attorney)
Wife: Wong May-wan (computer engineer, m. 1959)

    High School: St. Joseph's College, Hong Kong
    University: University of Greenwich (attended)
    University: BS, University of London (1957)
    University: PhD Electrical Engineering, Imperial College London (1965)
    Theological: Electrical Engineering, Chinese University of Hong Kong (1970-87)
    Administrator: Vice Chancellor, Chinese University of Hong Kong (1987-96)

    ACS George W. Morey Award 1976
    Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Medal 1977
    Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award 1978
    Rank Prize 1978
    L.M. Ericsson International Prize 1979
    AFCEA Gold Medal 1980
    IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal 1985
    Marconi Society Award 1985
    Computer and Communications Prize 1987
    IET Faraday Medal 1989
    APS James C. McGroddy Prize 1989
    RAE Prince Philip Medal 1996
    Charles Stark Draper Prize 1999
    SPIE Gold Medal 1992
    Commander of the British Empire 1993
    World Federation of Engineering Gold Medal 1995
    RAE Prince Philip Medal 1996
    Japan Prize 1996
    HKIE Gold Medal 2006
    Nobel Prize for Physics 2009 (with Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith)
    Standard Telephones and Cables (1963-70)
    ITT Research (1974-82)
    ITT Director of Engineering (1982-99)
    Transtech Services Ltd CEO
    ITX Services Ltd Chairman and CEO
    Royal Society
    Royal Academy of Engineering
    Asteroid Namesake 3463 Kaokuen
    Naturalized UK Citizen
    Naturalized US Citizen
    Chinese Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Alzheimer's

Author of books:
Optical Fiber Technology II (1980)
Optical Fiber Systems : Technology, Design, and Applications (1982)
Technology Road Maps for Hong Kong : An In-Depth Study of Four Technology Areas (1991, with Kenneth Young)
A Choice Fulfilled : The Business of High Technology (1991)


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