Known as the Father of Fibre Optics, Narinder Singh Kapany , an Indian-American physicist was born on October 31, 1926. So, today, on his 92nd birth anniversary, lets dig into his life, his research, his achievements and more…
Born to a sikh family in Moga, Punjab, Kapany is well known for his work on fibre optics. He studied at the Agra University and served briefly as an Indian Ordnance Factories Service officer, before going to Imperial College, London in 1952. He obtained his PhD degree there in 1955 for his work in optics. The term ‘Fibre Optics‘ was coined by Dr. Kapany in 1956.
Kapany states “When I was a high school student at Dehradun in the beautiful foothills of Himalaya, it occurred to me that light need not travel in straight line, that it could bend. I carried the idea to the college. Actually it was not an idea but the statement of a problem . When I worked in the ordnance factory in Dehradun after my graduation, I tried using right angled prisms to bend light. However, when I went to London to study at the Imperial College and started working on my thesis, my adviser Dr. Hopkins suggested that I try glass cylinders instead of prisms. So I thought of a bundle of thin glass fibres, which could bend easily. Initially, my primary interest was to use them in medical instruments for looking inside human body. The broad potential of optical fibres did not dawn on me till 1955. It was then that I coined the term fibre optics.”
It was Kapany’s path breaking research in fibre optics which paved the way for high speed broadband internet. Yes! you are able to read this article so easily because of this man only! His research also paved way for laser surgeries, endoscopy, solar energy and pollution monitoring and many more scientific advances. He has over one hundred patents and he was also a member of the National Inventors Council. He has received several awards including The Excellence 2000 Award from the USA Pan Asia chamber of commerce in 1998. Dr. Kapany is an international fellow of numerous scientific societies including the British Royal Academy of Engineering, the Optical society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Narinder Singh Kapany’s career has spanned science, entrepreneurship and management, academics, publishing, teaching and farming. His personal interests include philanthropy, art collecting and sculpturing. As an entrepreneur, he has specialized in the process of innovation and the management of technology and technology transfer. And, as an philanthropist, he has been active in fields of education and art. He has been the founder chairman and major funder of sikh foundation and its activities for over 30 years. Kapany was also named as one of the seven unsung heroes by Fortune in their Businessmen of the century issue (1999-11-22).
Dr. Narinder Kapany is one of those few distinguished Indians who have really made an impact on how the modern world functions. Indeed an inspiration.