Who is Narinder Singh Kapany
The world of modern communications owes a great debt to a visionary physicist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized the way we transmit information. Narinder Singh Kapany, born on 31st October 1926 in Moga, Punjab, is renowned as the ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ a title that befits his significant contributions to the field of optics and communications technology.
Early Life and Research
Narinder Singh Kapany’s journey began in a Sikh family in Moga, Punjab. He completed his schooling in Dehradun and pursued his higher education at Agra University. After serving as an Indian Ordnance Factories Service officer, he embarked on a Ph.D. degree in optics from the University of London at Imperial College London in 1952, successfully obtaining it in 1955.
At Imperial College, Kapany collaborated with Harold Hopkins on transmission through fibers. In 1953, they achieved a milestone by transmitting good quality images through a large bundle of optical fibers. This breakthrough significantly advanced image transmission capabilities, thanks to their innovative technique. It coincided with Dutch scientist Bram van Heel’s development of optical cladding, which acted as a catalyst for the emerging field of fiber optics. In 1960, Kapany coined the term ‘fiber optics’ in an article published in Scientific American, wrote the first book on the subject, and became the field’s foremost researcher, writer, and advocate.
Narinder Singh Kapany’s expertise extended far beyond fiber optics. His research spanned a wide range of areas, including fiber-optics communications, lasers, biomedical instrumentation, solar energy, and pollution monitoring. Throughout his illustrious career, he held over 120 patents and earned recognition as an International Fellow of esteemed scientific societies like the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Kapany also excelled as an entrepreneur and business executive. In 1960, he founded Optics Technology Inc., where he served as chairman of the board, President, and Director of Research for twelve years. Subsequently, he founded Kaptron Inc. in 1973, serving as president and CEO until he sold the company to AMP Incorporated in 1990. He then became an AMP Fellow and played key roles in various organizations and companies, including K2 Optronics.
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As an educator, Kapany taught and mentored postgraduate students, holding the position of Regents Professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He established the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED) at UCSC, where he served as Director for seven years. He was also a Visiting Scholar in the Physics Department at Stanford University and a Consulting Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering.
Philanthropy and Art
Beyond his scientific achievements, Narinder Singh Kapany was actively engaged in philanthropic and artistic endeavors. He played a crucial role in establishing the Sikh Foundation, serving as its founding chairman and generously supporting its activities for over five decades. Through collaborations with international institutions and publishers, the Foundation promoted Sikh culture and heritage through various programs in publishing, academia, and the arts.
Kapany’s passion for Sikh art led him to become a notable collector, specializing in Sikh art pieces. His contributions were exhibited in prestigious museums worldwide, including the “Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms” exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. As an artist himself, Kapany showcased his dynoptic sculptures in numerous galleries and museums, captivating audiences with his creative expression.
Narinder Singh Kapany: The Father of Fiber Optics
Awards and Legacy
Narinder Singh Kapany’s groundbreaking work earned him several prestigious awards and honors throughout his life. In 2021, he was posthumously awarded India’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan. He also received the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Fiat Lux Award in 2008 and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2004.
Fortune magazine recognized Kapany as one of seven ‘Unsung Heroes of the 20th century’ for his Nobel Prize-deserving invention, solidifying his place in history as an influential figure.
Time Magazine further acknowledged his impact by including him in their list of top ten scientists of the 20th century in their final issue of 1999.
Personal Life and Passing
In 1954, Narinder Singh Kapany married Miss Satinder Kaur in London, and the couple shared their lives until Satinder Kaur passing in 2016. Sadly, the world lost this brilliant mind on 4th December 2020, when he passed away at the age of 94.
Narinder Singh Kapany’s contributions to science, technology, and culture have left an indelible mark on the world. As we celebrate his life and legacy, we acknowledge the immense impact he had on shaping the way we communicate and connect, forever cementing his place as the Father of Fiber Optics.
His work continues to inspire generations of scientists, engineers, and artists to explore new frontiers and push the boundaries of human knowledge.