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  • Broadband Pioneer Awarded Honorary Degree
Oct 2010
GLASGOW, England, Oct. 13, 2010 —  A Nobel laureate who helped create the technology that made the Internet possible has been presented with an honorary degree by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Charles Kao received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2009 for his pioneering work in fiber optics. He discovered that fibers could be used to transmit light for telecommunications and his innovations ultimately led to the broadband network, which has accelerated the vast expansion of the Internet over the past decade and a half.

The use of lasers pulsing through fiber optic cables vastly increases the speed of access to the Internet and this, in turn, has made the web far larger and available to millions more people worldwide.

Kao received his Honorary Degree from Strathclyde when he attended a ceremony on Hong Kong Island.

"Sir Charles' discoveries can be said to have truly changed the world,” said Strathclyde principal professor, Jim McDonald, who presented the degree to Kao. “He opened up the possibilities of broadband communications and the technology he pioneered means that more knowledge, information and ideas are widely available than at any time in history.

Shown, left to right, are Allister Ferguson, professor and deputy principal of the University of Strathclyde; Charles Kao; May Wan Kao; and Jim McDonald, professor and principal of the University of Strathclyde.

"As a leading international technological university, Strathclyde has an extensive track record in intensive, productive laser research and in pursuing the many commercial opportunities the devices offer. Sir Charles is an inspiration to everyone who works in this field, at our University and elsewhere, and we are proud and privileged that he has accepted an honorary degree from us."

Departments across the University of Strathclyde are active in refining and redefining the possibilities of lasers, with applications in medicine, dentistry, renewable energy, communications and chemical detection.

The University of Strathclyde established the first Chair of Photonics and is the lead institution in SU2P, a venture between academic institutions in Scotland, with Caltech and Stanford University in California, exploring commercial opportunities for lasers, optics and semiconductors and researching their applications.

Kao is a former vice chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and earlier this year was named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honors list. He was also this year awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest honor which can be made to citizens of Hong Kong.

Sir Charles is affected by Alzheimer's disease and his honorary degree was accepted on his behalf by his wife, May Wan Kao.

"Everyone's lifestyle has been changed hugely by the use of the Internet and by the way we communicate globally in these last decades. Sir Charles dreamed it would be a bombshell, but never dreamt it would spawn the vast new industry that has grown since,” Kao, his wife, said. "With the public knowledge that Sir Charles has Alzheimer's, I hope it adds to the drive, the momentum and the funding that we need to find a cure for Alzheimer's and to provide help for the caregivers."

The University of Strathclyde is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC015263.

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