Three Americans win 2009 Nobel Prize for physics

17:08, October 12, 2009      

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Photos of three winners of the Nobel Prize in physics for 2009 are seen on a screen during an announcement ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, Oct. 6, 2009. Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith on Tuesday won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries of importance for the internet and data and telephone communications and the digital camera. (Xinhua/Wu Ping)

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, all from the United States, on Tuesday.

Kao was awarded "for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication," and Boyle and Smith were awarded "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit -- the CCD sensor," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

Among the three, Kao is a Chinese-American who was born in Shanghai in 1933 and also holds British citizenship, while Boyle is a Canadian dual national.

The CCD is the digital camera's electronic eye. It revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. CCD technology is also used in many medical applications, e.g. imaging the inside of the human body, both for diagnostics and for microsurgery as well as astronomy, said the Nobel Committee.

Kao who was electronic engineer and vice-chancellor of Chinese University of Hong Kong before retirement made a discovery that led to a breakthrough in fiber optics in 1966. He calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibers which led to the fabrication of the first ultra pure fiber in 1970.In 1969 Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith invented the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device), according to the Committee.

The two scientific achievements have helped to shape the foundations of today's networked societies by creating many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration, added the Nobel Committee.

This was the second of this year's crop of Nobel prizes, which are handed out annually for achievements in science, literature, economics and peace.

All but one of the prizes were established in the will of 19th century dynamite millionaire Alfred Nobel. The economics award was established by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

On Monday, the Nobel Medicine Prize went to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, a U.S. and Australian citizen, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak from the United States.

Nobel died childless and dedicated his vast fortune to create "prizes for those, who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

The prizes have been awarded since 1901. Each prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma and a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (about 1.4 million U.S. dollars).

Source: Xinhua
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