|For Immediate Release |
October 6, 1999
|Contacts: Bob Ludwig, Media Relations Associate |
Jennifer Cavendish, Media Relations Assistant
Developers of Fiber Optic Technology
Receive Draper Prize;
NAE Awards Now Total $1 Million with New Russ Prize
WASHINGTON The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced that three engineers Charles K. Kao, Robert D. Maurer, and John B. MacChesney are the recipients of the 1999 Charles Stark Draper Prize for their work in developing fiber optic technology, a watershed event in the global telecommunications and information technology revolution. The $500,000 prize will be presented at a dinner honoring the recipients next February during National Engineers Week.
"The NAE is proud to honor these visionaries for the development of one of the most revolutionary inventions the world has ever seen," said Wm. A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering. "Communication as we now know it, including the Internet, would not exist without fiber optics. Innovations such as videoconferencing, electronic commerce, and high-quality long-distance telephone service are a direct result of the work of these three engineers."
The NAE also announced the creation of the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize a new $500,000 award to be given biennially beginning in 2000 to recognize outstanding achievement in an engineering field of critical importance that, through widespread use, contributes to improving the human condition. The first Russ Prize, endowed by the Russes through Ohio University, Athens, will recognize achievement in bioengineering.
"The dedication of $1 million in prizes shows the National Academy of Engineering's commitment to recognizing those who have devoted a lifetime to the advancement of society through engineering," said Wulf. "It is important that the NAE honors industry leaders who perpetuate critical thinking, technological advancements, and societal benefit."
The Charles Stark Draper Prize, endowed by Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass., was established in 1988 to recognize individuals whose outstanding engineering achievements have contributed to the well-being and freedom of humanity. The once-biennial prize will now be awarded annually. This year's award celebrates fiber optic technology, which uses light to carry information through silica fiber material that is thinner than a human hair. Its low manufacturing cost and its ability to transmit vastly more information than copper wire has fueled the explosion in global communications. It is the "concrete" of the information superhighway. By the end of 1998 more than 215 million kilometers of optical fiber had been installed for communications worldwide, enough to stretch to the moon and back nearly 280 times.
Kao, who was working at ITT's Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in the 1960s, theorized about how to use light for communication instead of bulky copper wire and was the first to publicly propose the possibility of a practical application for fiber optic telecommunication. Maurer led a team of researchers at Corning Inc. that included co-inventors Donald Keck and Peter Schultz, who designed and produced the first optical fiber in 1970. MacChesney and his colleagues at Bell Laboratories formerly part of AT&T and now the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies followed in 1974 with the Modified Chemical Vapor Deposition process, which provided a path to the practical mass production of high-quality optical fiber.
Maurer retired from Corning Inc. in 1989 and resides in Painted Post, N.Y. Kao and MacChesney are still involved in telecommunications research and development. Kao is chairman and chief executive officer of Transtech Services Ltd., Hong Kong, and MacChesney is a research fellow at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, N.J.
Charles Stark Draper, the "father of inertial navigation," evolved the theory, invented and developed the technology, and led the effort that brought inertial navigation to operational usage in aircraft, space vehicles, and submarines. Draper developed the sophisticated navigational system that landed the Apollo astronauts on the moon and returned them safely to Earth. He was elected to the NAE in 1965.
The new engineering prize honors Fritz Russ, an esteemed engineer, entrepreneur, and founder of Systems Research Laboratories, and his wife Dolores Russ, a long-time supporter and benefactor of the engineering industry. The prize was created by the NAE at the request of Ohio University from which Fritz Russ graduated in 1942 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering.
"Engineers make a major contribution to our society and they don't get adequate recognition," said Fritz Russ. "The space program, automobiles, bioengineering, medical technology, television and communications, and computers are just a few examples. The prize is a means to getting engineers better recognition for their achievements, and the National Academy of Engineering is the best vehicle to award the prize."
Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering provides engineering leadership in service to the nation, and works to build and to articulate the implications of rapid technological change, affecting the way people work, learn, band play. Operating under the same congressional Act of Incorporation signed in 1863 by President Lincoln that established the National Academy of Sciences, the NAE is directed whenever called on by any department or agency of the government, to investigate, examine, experiment, and report on any subject of science and technology.
Draper Laboratory serves the nation as an independent, nonprofit laboratory engaged in applied research, engineering development, education, and technology transfer.
Ohio University was chartered by the state of Ohio in 1804 and is the oldest university in the Northwest Territory. The university enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students at its main campus in Athens and at five regional campuses. It is designated a Research II university by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
For more information about the National Academy of Engineering and the Draper and Russ prizes, contact Daniel N. Whitt Jr., NAE awards administrator, at (202) 334-1237. Visit the NAE Web site at www.nae.edu.
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING
1999 Charles Stark Draper Prize Committee
Mary L. Good, Ph.D.1 (chair)
Former Undersecretary for Technology
U.S. Department of Commerce, and
Venture Capital Investors, LLC
Little Rock, Ark.
Richard Balzhiser, Ph.D.1
Electric Power Research Institute Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Thomas F. Budinger, M.D., Ph.D.1,2
Head, Center for Functional Imaging
E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Fernando J. Corbato, Ph.D.1
Professor Emeritus of Computer Science
and Engineering, and Senior Lecturer
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Maurice C. Fuerstenau, Sc.D.1
Echo Bays Mines Distinguished Professor
Mackay School of Mines
University of Nevada
Elsa M. Garmire, Ph.D.1
Thayer School of Engineering
John H. Gibbons, Ph.D.1
Former Assistant to the President for Science
and Technology, and Former Director
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
The Plains, Va.
Siegfried S. Hecker, Ph.D.1
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, N.M.
Paul C. Jennings, Ph.D.1
Professor of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics
California Institute of Technology
Henry Petroski, Ph.D.1
A.S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering
Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering
Herbert H. Richardson, Sc.D., P.E.1
Associate Vice Chancellor for Engineering, and
Director, Texas Transportation Institute
Texas A&M University System
Maxine L. Savitz, Ph.D.1
Robert M. White, Sc.D.1
President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering, and
Principal, Washington Advisory Group
Daniel N. Whitt Jr.
NAE Awards Administrator
1 Member, National Academy of Engineering
2Member, Institute of Medicine