WOOLWICH: Poly student wins Nobel prize for physics

Charles Kao collected an honorary degree from the University go Greenwich in 2003

Charles Kao collected an honorary degree from the University go Greenwich in 2003

First published in News

A FORMER polytechnic student has been awarded the Nobel prize for physics.

Professor Charles Kao graduated in electrical engineering from Woolwich Polytechnic, now the University of Greenwich, in 1957.

Mr Kao, originally born in Shanghai, masterminded the art of sending information via pure glass fibres, a technology which has paved the way for high speed internet and telecommunications.

The professor, now 76, shares the prize of around £900,000 with researchers George Smith and Willard Boyle, who receive a quarter of the prize for developing devices used as electronic eyes in digital cameras.

The Nobel assembly says the men “helped to shape the foundations of today's networked societies"

After Woolwich Polytechnic, Mr Kao went on to get a PhD from Imperial College and became vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In an interview given to the University of Greenwich’s magazine in 2007, the professor spoke of spending hours on the tennis court and the societies he joined at the polytechnic.

He said: “Student life is not all studies or play, and Woolwich Polytechnic gave opportunities for students to grow into whole people.”

Mr Kao went on to join Standard Telephones and Cables as a graduate trainee where he began investigating the use of fibre optics.

The professor told the magazine: “It took 20 years of contributions by many researchers before a viable commercial system was born.”

Mr Kao was a resident of Woolwich during his time there and is remembered as expressing a fondness for fish and chips.

Vice-chancellor of the university Baroness Tessa Blackstone said: “The university is delighted that the great achievement of one of its graduates has been recognised by the Nobel committee.

“We have always regarded Charles Kao as one of our most distinguished alumni, and it was a great privilege when he accepted an honorary degree from the university in 2003. “ A formal awards ceremony will take place on December 10 in Stockholm.

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