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The University of Southampton

Optical fibre pioneer honoured by world of science

Published: 29 October 2004

Professor David Payne FRS, CBE, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton, will be awarded the Kelvin Medal, one of science's most prestigious honours, at a ceremony at the Institution of Civil Engineers, on Tuesday 2 November.

The Kelvin Medal is one of two honours that Professor Payne will receive in the coming week. Today (Friday 29 October) he is being presented with his CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) from HM The Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. The CBE was announced in the Queen's Birthday Honours last June in recognition of his services to photonics.

Previous winners of the Kelvin Medal include radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi and Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine.

A leading international expert in photonics and optical fibre technology, Professor Payne has spearheaded many key advances in optical-fibre communications, including the development of the erbium-doped fibre amplifier, which has revolutionised telecommunications over the past thirty years.

Professor Payne is Chairman and Director of Southampton Photonics Inc, an international spin-out company from the University of Southampton which manufactures several of his inventions. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Optical Society of America and the Royal Society of Arts. This year he celebrates his fortieth year at the University of Southampton, which he joined as an undergraduate in 1964.

He commented: "This honours not just me, but all the hundreds of world-class photonics scientists with whom I have had the privilege to work over the years and who have made the ORC the internationally recognized centre it is today. I am looking forward to many more years of innovation in this exciting field."

Professor John Burland, Chairman of the Institution of Civil Engineers awards committee added: "Professor Payne's research into photonics, and its application to produce many of the key advances in optic fibre communications over the past 30 years, has made an outstanding contribution to the application of science to engineering. This exceptional work makes him a very worthy winner of the Kelvin Medal for 2004."

Notes for editors

  1. The Kelvin Medal is awarded jointly by the Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Electrical Engineers, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Institute of Materials, Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, Institution of Mining Engineers and Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. The medal is presented every three years as a mark of distinction in engineering work or investigation of the kind with which Lord Kelvin was identified.
  2. Photonics is the merging of physical, optical, electronic, chemical and materials sciences to develop newer, faster and more efficient ways of exploiting the properties of light. In less than 30 years, photonics has had an enormous impact on almost every facet of our lives, in areas as diverse as telecommunications, manufacturing, aerospace, medicine and entertainment. So far, enough optical fibre cable has been installed to circle the earth thousands of times. Yet, despite this rapid progress, photonics still has its future ahead of it. It will continue to change our lives and expand our opportunities as much, if not more dramatically than telecommunications, aircraft, television and computers have done in the past.
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