Professor Charles Kuen Kao, a scientist awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2009 for his work on fibre optics, passed away in Hong Kong on Sunday (Sept 23) at the age of 84.
Prof Kao pioneered the development and use of fibre optics technology, bringing revolutionary changes to modern telecommunication technology, said Mrs Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2004. Despite this, Prof Kao, together with his wife, created the Charles K. Kao Foundation for Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010 to help other patients and raise public awareness about the disease, she said.
Prof Kao also served as the third vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) from 1987 to 1996. Upon his retirement, he was appointed Honorary Professor of Engineering.
“Professor Kao was a brilliant scholar and visionary leader in higher education. As the third vice-chancellor, he spearheaded the advancement of CUHK in its formative years, laying down a fertile ground for the growth of talents, and made remarkable achievements during his tenure,” said Professor Rocky Tuan, vice-chancellor and president of CUHK.
His impeccable strive for excellence in science and technology led to his groundbreaking accomplishments in the area of fibre optics, which brought forth the development of the Internet and opened a new page in the history of telecommunications, Prof Tuan said.
Born in Shanghai in 1933, Prof Kao moved to Hong Kong in 1948. He studied at the University of London where he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree and his PhD in electrical engineering.