City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Apr 8, 2004 - Science - 348 pages
City of Light tells the story of fiber optics, tracing its transformation from 19th-century parlor trick into the foundation of our global communications network. Written for a broad audience by a journalist who has covered the field for twenty years, the book is a lively account of both the people and the ideas behind this revolutionary technology. The basic concept underlying fiber optics was first explored in the 1840s when researchers used jets of water to guide light in laboratory demonstrations. The idea caught the public eye decades later when it was used to create stunning illuminated fountains at many of the great Victorian exhibitions. The modern version of fiber optics--using flexible glass fibers to transmit light--was discovered independently five times through the first half of the century, and one of its first key applications was the endoscope, which for the first time allowed physicians to look inside the body without surgery. Endoscopes became practical in 1956 when a college undergraduate discovered how to make solid glass fibers with a glass cladding. With the invention of the laser, researchers grew interested in optical communications. While Bell Labs and others tried to send laser beams through the atmosphere or hollow light pipes, a small group at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories looked at guiding light by transparent fibers. Led by Charles K. Kao, they proposed the idea of fiber-optic communications and demonstrated that contrary to what many researchers thought glass could be made clear enough to transmit light over great distances. Following these ideas, Corning Glass Works developed the first low-loss glass fibers in 1970. From this point fiber-optic communications developed rapidly. The first experimental phone links were tested on live telephone traffic in 1977 and within half a dozen years long-distance companies were laying fiber cables for their national backbone systems. In 1988, the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable connected Europe with North America, and now fiber optics are the key element in global communications. The story continues today as fiber optics spread through the communication grid that connects homes and offices, creating huge information pipelines and replacing copper wires. The book concludes with a look at some of the exciting potential developments of this technology.


The Birth of an Industry 19541960
Communicating with Light 18801960
The Laser Stimulates the Emission of New Ideas 19601969
The Only Thing Left Is Optical Fibers 19601969
Trying to Sell a Dream 19651970
The Clearest Glass in the World 19661972
A Demonstration for the Queen 19701975
Three Generations in Five Years 19751983
An Elusive Vision

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page vii - ... been sufficiently recognized. The Sloan Foundation has had a long-standing interest in deepening public understanding about modern technology, its origins, and its impact on our lives. The Sloan Technology Series, of which the present volume is a part, seeks to present to the general reader the stories of the development of critical twentieth-century technologies. The aim of the series is to convey both the technical and human dimensions of the subject: the invention and effort entailed in devising...
Page viii - As the century draws to an end, it is hoped that the series will disclose a past that might provide perspective on the present and inform the future. The Foundation has been guided in its development of the Sloan Technology Series by a distinguished advisory committee. We express deep gratitude to John Armstrong, Simon Michael Bessie, Samuel Y. Gibbon, Thomas P. Hughes, Victor McElheny, Robert K. Merton, Elting E. Morison (deceased), and Richard Rhodes. The foundation has been represented on the...
Page vii - The effects are not one-way; just as technology changes society, so too do societal structures, attitudes, and mores affect technology. But perhaps because technology is so rapidly and completely assimilated, the profound interplay of technology and other social endeavors in modern history has not been sufficiently recognized. The Sloan Foundation has had a long-standing interest in deepening public understanding about modern technology, its origins, and its impact on our lives. The Sloan Technology...
Page ii - Changed the World: How a Small Group of Radar Pioneers Won the Second World War and Launched a Technological Revolution by Robert Buderi Computer: A History of the Information Machine by Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century by Bettyann...

Bibliographic information