From left to right: Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith. (Reuters)
Three scientists who harnessed the power of light in ways that helped turn the Internet into a global phenomenon and launched the digital-camera revolution were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday.
Charles Kao, who received half the total prize money of $1.4 million, was lauded for a breakthrough that led to fiber-optic cables, the thin glass threads that carry a vast chunk of the world’s phone and data traffic and make up the circulatory system of the Internet.
The other half of the prize was shared by Willard Boyle and George Smith for work that led to the charge-coupled device, the “electronic eye” of a digital camera that turns light into electrical signals. The device, which eliminates the need for capturing images on film, paved the way for both today’s point-and-shoot digital cameras and the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Nobel committee described the three physicists as “masters of light.”