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Sir Charles K. Kao – Igniting the Fire of Modern Technology:


Sir Charles K. Kao, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics, is a trailblazer in the field of fiber optics communications and modern technology. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, then there’s a high chance that you are using some form of modern technology that has been influenced or even enabled by his groundbreaking work – whether it be your smartphone, internet connectivity or even climate monitoring systems!

Early Life:

Sir Charles K. Kao was born in Shanghai, China in 1933 to a Chinese diplomat father and opera singer mother. He was forced to move with his family to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War, where he attended The Queen’s College and then Oxford University before completing his PhD at Harvard University.

Kao went on to work for many years at AT&T Bell Laboratories before becoming Director of Engineering for ITT Corporation. In 1991 he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his work with fiber optics technology, which allowed data transmission over long distances using light instead of electricity (similar to how we use fiber optic cables today).


Born in Shanghai, China, in 1933, Sir Kao went on to attend St. John’s University, which was a private school located in his hometown of Shanghai. He was forced to leave the country during the Communist Revolution that took place in 1949 due to his family’s ties to the Kuomintang government.

He then moved to Taiwan where he continued his education at National Cheng Kung University and earned three degrees: bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering; master’s degree in electrical engineering; and doctorate degree in physics.


Did you know that the first Asian to receive a Nobel Prize for physics was actually born in Shanghai, China? And he wasn’t even named China.

His name is Sir Charles Kao and he was born in 1933. He pursued his education at University College London, where he earned his doctorate degree in electrical engineering and worked as a researcher until 1959 when he joined AT&T Bell Labs in New Jersey as an assistant research engineer. In 1970, he returned to England where he continued his work as an expert on fiber optics and semiconductor lasers at Imperial College London until 1987 when he became Vice-Chancellor of City University London (CUL).


  • In 2009 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication”.
  • He was also awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 for his contribution to the development of fiber optics technology that has changed our lives today.
  • Throughout his career, Kao authored or co-authored over 600 scientific papers on topics ranging from quantum electronics to data communications technology.

It was only because of Charles’ relentless effort that the world today can enjoy the multitude of benefits from fiber optics, microwave and geostationary communication.

You’re probably aware of the fact that your internet connection is based on fiber optics, but do you know who Charles K. Kao is? He’s a Chinese scientist and engineer known for his contributions to the development of fiber-optic communication systems.

Charles Kao was born in Shanghai, China on October 23rd 1933. His father was a diplomat working for the Chinese government at that time and would later become an ambassador. Due to this fact, Charles spent much of his childhood travelling around different countries within Asia before finally returning back home in 1948 when he was 15 years old.

Charles began attending St John’s University in New York City where he studied electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics during which time he also took classes from Columbia University as well as Harvard University where it was here that he met George Hockham who would go on assisting him throughout his career by providing assistance with various projects including those involving communications,

technologies such as telephones and radios prior moving onto working together again later down the road when they both worked together developing better methods for sending signals through optical fibers which eventually lead up until their discovery being made public after 13 years worth work put into developing these methods originally started back in 1953 when they were still working together at BT Labs (British Telecom).


Dr. Charles Kao is a remarkable man who has dedicated his life to the field of science and technology. Without him, we would all still be using cumbersome telephone lines and sluggish, slow Internet connections. Many people have not heard of Dr. Charles Kao but he is truly one of the unsung heroes of modern technology whose contributions have changed our lives for the better.

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