Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, Esteemed Members of the Optics and Photonics C


Lyndsay Meyer
The Optical Society

Keira Shein
WilkinsonShein Communications
+1 410.363.9494

Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, Esteemed Members of the Optics and Photonics Community, Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

-- Prestigious Award Bestowed for Contributions to Fiber Optics and CCD Sensor --

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6The Optical Society (OSA) is honored to announce that three esteemed members of and contributors to the optics and photonics community—Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith—have been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The award is bestowed annually upon the person who has made “the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics.” Kao, Boyle and Smith join the more than 20 optics and photonics scientists who have achieved this admirable distinction.

Half of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2009 is awarded to Charles K. Kao, formerly of Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, UK and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.” The other half is bestowed onWillard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, both formerly of Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor.” The Nobel Prize in Physics will be presented by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during a ceremony on Dec. 10 at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

In 1966, Charles K. Kao carefully calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibers. With a fiber of purest glass it would be possible to transmit light signals over a distance of 100 kilometers, compared to only 20 meters for the fibers available in the 1960s. This discovery laid the foundation for today’s fiber optic networks.

In 1969, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). The CCD is the digital camera's electronic eye. It revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. This breakthrough has led to today’s digital photography revolution, as well as applications in medical imaging, astronomy and beyond.

“Optics technologies are exceptionally significant for scientific developments in today’s world. From fiber optics to digital photography, imaging and beyond, the advancements made by today’s newest Nobel Laureates have had a profound impact on our daily lives,” said Elizabeth Rogan, CEO, OSA. “We congratulate Drs. Kao, Boyle and Smith on this much-deserved recognition.”

Boyle and Smith also were the 2001 recipients of OSA’s Edwin H. Land Medal. This medal recognizes pioneering work empowered by scientific research to create inventions, technologies and products. The Land Medal is a joint award of OSA and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T), endowed through the OSA Foundation by contributions from OSA, IS&T, the Polaroid Foundation, the Polaroid Retirees Association and individual contributors, including Manfred Heiting, John J. McCann and Theodore Voss.

For more information on this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, visit

About OSA
Uniting more than 106,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit