‘Godfather of Broadband’ to be honoured in Harlow

NOBEL prize winner and the man known as the Godfather of broadband, Sir Charles Kao, is to be honoured on Tuesday with the unveiling of a special plaque at Harlow College.

‘Charlie Kao’ carried out his pioneering work on fibre optics at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow – the then worldwide research centre for international company ITT.

His groundbreaking research formed the basis for fibre optics, the medium fundamental to everything from instant messaging to the World Wide Web.

He subsequently received numerous awards including the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics and a knighthood in 2010.

Alzheimer’s now prevents Sir Charles travelling on long flights but in a message from their home in Hong Kong, Lady Kao said it was wonderful he was remembered in Harlow.


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“It was all so long ago and this was never expected in our wildest dreams,” she said. “We feel very honoured that a plaque is being unveiled at the Harlow College Campus.

“We think of our years in Harlow with nostalgia.”

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Referring to his work with fibre optics, she said: “Our wildest dreams never envisaged the vast changes it would make to all our lives – the internet, email, the text messaging, the video phones, Facebook, Youtube...”

“Thank you to all who contributed to this effort and for the great honour you do us.”

The Minister for Science and Technology at the Chinese Embassy in London, Chen Futao, will unveil the plaque in recognition that Dr Kao was a Chinese national before coming to the UK in 1952 and maintained close relations with the country.

The plaque will not only commemorate his work but also the fact that for 50 years Harlow was a worldwide centre for telecommunications research where many breakthroughs in technology were made and thousands of patents filed

Because the laboratories are no longer present the plaque will be at the Harlow College in the town centre - reflecting the links between the industry and academia.

The ceremony will take place at 3pm at Velizy Avenue, Harlow College. The unveiling ceremony will include speeches from Colin Hindmarch, principal of Harlow College, Professor Alan Sibbald, deputy vice chancellor at Anglia Ruskin University, Ian Vance, former managing director of the STL Laboratories, and Chen Futao.

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