Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: The Father of Fiber Optics

Narinder Singh Kapany has become widely known as “The Father of Fiber Optics” due to his pioneering work with fibers as a means to transmit light signals over long distances for such purposes as telecommunications. Kapany even coined the phrase “fiber optics” more than a half-century ago.

Kapany’s extensive research and innovations involving fiber optics have significantly impacted a vast range of human endeavors, including transportation. Fiber optic technology has proven vital to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), for example, as a part of integrated telecommunication networks to enhance the operation of freeways and improve the mobility and safety of the traveling public on those routes.

Kapany was born to a Sikh family in India in 1926. He completed advanced studies in optics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London and received his doctorate from the University of London. A longtime U.S. citizen, Kapany currently resides in California.

Kapany has authored four books and over 100 scientific papers on fiber optics. In addition, he has served as a regents professor at both the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was also a visiting scholar in the physics department and consulting professor in the department of electrical engineering at Stanford University.

Kapany’s many honors have included receiving the Excellence 2000 Award from the USA Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce in 1998. In 1999, Fortune magazine highlighted him as one of seven people who significantly influenced the daily lives of many in the 20th century.

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