Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology

By Lance Day; Ian McNeil | Go to book overview

K

Kao, Charles Kuen

b. 4 November 1933 Shanghai, China


Chinese electrical engineer whose work on optical fibres did much to make optical communications a practical reality.

After the Second World War, Kao moved with his family to Hong Kong, where he went to St Joseph's College. To further his education he then moved to England, taking his 'A' Levels at Woolwich Polytechnic. In 1957 he gained a BSc in electrical engineering and then joined Standard Telephones and Cables Laboratory (STL) at Harlow. Following the discovery by others in 1960 of the semiconductor laser, from 1963 Kao worked on the problems of optical communications, in particular that of achieving attenuation in optical cables low enough to make this potentially very high channel capacity form of communication a practical proposition; this problem was solved by suitable cladding of the fibres. In the process he obtained his PhD from University College, London, in 1965. From 1970 until 1974, whilst on leave from STL, he was Professor of Electronics and Department Chairman at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, then in 1982-7 he was Chief Scientist and Director of Engineering with the parent company ITT in the USA. Since 1988 he has been Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University.


Principal Honours and Distinctions

Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Medal 1977. Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Prize 1978; L.M. Ericsson Prize 1979. Institution of Electrical Engineers A.G. Bell Medal 1985; Faraday Medal 1989. American Physical Society International Prize for New Materials 1989.


Bibliography
1966, with G.A. Hockham, 'Dielectric fibre surface waveguides for optical frequencies', Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 113:1,151 (describes the major step in optical-fibre development).
1982, Optical Fibre Systems. Technology, Design & Application, New York: McGraw-Hill.
1988, Optical Fibre, London: Peter Peregrinus.

Further Reading
W.B. Jones, 1988, Introduction to Optical Fibre Communications: R&W Holt.

KF


Kaplan, Viktor

b. 27 November 1876 Mutz, Austria

d. 23 August 1834 Unterach, Austria


Austrian engineer, inventor of the Kaplan turbine.

Kaplan was educated at the Realschule in Vienna and went on to the Technische Hochschule to study machine construction, gaining his engineer's diploma in 1900. He spent a year in voluntary service in the Navy before entering Ganz & Co. at Lebersdorf, where he was engaged in the manufacture of diesel engines. In 1903 he turned to an academic career, first with a professorship in kinematics, theoretical machine studies and machine construction at the Technische Hochschule in Brunn (now Brno). In 1918 he became Professor of Water Turbine Construction, remaining as such until his early retirement for health reasons in 1931.

Kaplan's first publication on turbines, in 1908, was an extension of work carried out for his doctorate at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna and concerned the Francis-type turbine. Kaplan went on to develop and patent the form of water turbine that came to bear his name. It is a reaction turbine which uses a large flow on a low head and which is made like a ship's propeller with variable-pitch vanes running in a close-fitting casing. Its application was neglected at first, but since the 1920s it has become the basic turbine for most high-powered hydroelectric plant: the turbines have been capable of around 85 per cent efficiency and modern developments have raised this figure still further. Perhaps the most impressive application of the Kaplan turbine and its derivatives is the great tidal-power scheme in

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