Founding Chairman - Prof. Charles Kao
Nobel Laureate in Physics 2009
Prof. Charles Kao, the founding Chairman of the Department of Electronic Engineering, has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Prof. Charles Kao's Achievement
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences praises Prof. Kao for his "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication". His invention allows words, music and pictures to be transmitted to every corner of the world in seconds. Prof. Kao is the first man to study communication through optic fibres. In 1966, he presented the foundational thesis on optical communication - "Dielectric-Fibre Surface Waveguides for optical frequencies", which proposed the use of hair-thin optic fibres to transmit near infinite volume of data, replacing the bulky copper wires. On the basis of his research, the first optic fibre communication system was eventually born in the early 1980s. Prof. Kao had made reality the impossible and was soon honoured around the globe as the "Father of fibre optics".
Prof. Kao's research outputs have brought him well over 20 international awards, including the Marconi International Scientist Award, which is widely seen as the Nobel Prize for electrical engineering; the Faraday Medal (UK); and the 12th Japan Prize. In 1996, he was elected Overseas Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the same year, a minor planet was named after him as "Kaokuen" by the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Prof. Charles Kao and Department of Electronic Engineering, CUHK
Prof. Charles Kao had received secondary education in Hong Kong and graduated from the University of London in Electrical Engineering. He was the Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, and is a brilliant scientist and an educationist with vision. Prof. Kao was invited by CUHK in 1970 to establish the Department of Electronic Engineering and became our founding Chairman. In those days, he has already been an internationally renowned scientist. In the ensuing 4 years, he was instrumental in developing academic programmes in electronics and become the first professor of the department. He introduced the work-study scheme which provides students with practical experience in the industry. Prof. Kao was director of research at the Corporate Advanced Technology Centre of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporate Corporation before he became vice-chancellor of the University in 1987. He had been committed to promoting engineering education and to train engineers for the Hong Kong industry. He founded the Faculty of Engineering during his Vice-Chancellorship in CUHK which he sees as another peak in life since the invention of optic fibres. Under his leadership, CUHK implemented a flexible credit system to ensure the quality of education. The communication network on campus was enhanced to connect with the wider world. Links with international seats of learning as well as industry were strengthened. Hence, the international reputation of CUHK in teaching and research has been greatly enhanced.
Prof. Charles Kao's Insightful Vision
Prof. Kao's success is built on his perseverance on his research in fibre optics. He thinks that how to utilize inventions to improve lives is more important than the invention per se. He does not regret giving up possession of the patent of fiber optic technology. "The achievement in fiber optic technology would not have been made had he always put money making in the prime position", he said. He reminds students that they must have independent thinking. One must have forward-looking ideas to make great contributions on scientific research. Prof. Kao's comments are very inspirational to local students. He expects that the future will be the world of information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology, and he wishes the younger generations to contribute to the world through explorations in science and technology.
Since retiring as vice-chancellor, Professor Kao has continued his association with CUHK as an Honorary Professor of Engineering. We extend our heartiest congratulations to Prof. Kao on his exceptional achievement, and are immensely proud to have him as our leader and colleague.