Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Born on this Day Father of Fibres

31 October 2019

Father of Fibres

Although many scientists experimented with sending light down thin fibres of glass by refracting or bending its path, it wasn’t until 1953 that a flexible bundle of around 10,000 fibres – a 'fibrescope' – carried clear images over a short distance. In perfecting these techniques, Narinder Singh Kapany – born on this day in 1926 – is regarded as the “Father of Fiber Optics". His ideas inspired the first fibre optic gastroscope, fetching images from deep inside the human body and paving the way for modern key-hole surgery. Elsewhere fibre optics is used for high-speed communication, and in engineering, allowing – just as in the human body – a window on the workings of internal structures. Professor Kapany’s work is also perhaps a reminder for young scientists to question everything – “One day the professor told us that light ‘always travels in a straight line’. But that can’t be true, I thought – it must be bent sometimes”.

Written by John Ankers

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