Thursday, October 15, 2009

After Charles Kao won Noble Prize in Physics

10/15/2009, About one week ago, Chinese American, Dr. Charles Kao was awarded half of the 2009 Noble Prize in Physics for his pioneer work on fiber optics communication. This award pulls at many Chinese’s heart strings. Some people wonder when Noble prize in Science can award to a Chinese citizen. Some people are happy that fiber optics gets recognition from Noble Prize committee.
Charles Kao is not the first Chinese American to get the Noble Prize, the crown jewel of the science research. As before, the award of Dr. Kao excites so many Chinese in mainland China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Although he had lived and worked in Hongkong for more than 10 years, he is the fellow of Central Academy of Taiwan and Chinese Science Academy of maindland China, he is still a citizen of the U.S.. His university education was from U.K. and the work leading to the award was finished in UK also. So many journalists, bloggers, criticize that it is education system in China that obstructs Chinese scientists from creative work. The research environment in China is not suitable for creative scientists. Some others have different ideas. One blogger wrote that Chinese shouldn’t take Noble Prize so important, and Chinese don’t need the recognition from foreigners. Another Chinese American Noble Prize winner, Dr. Chen Ning Yang insisted that Chinese citizen would win the award in 20 years. It is interesting to compare this situation in China with Canada. This time, there are two Mcgill graduates who won this year’s Noble Prize. Both of them worked in U.S after their graduation. Canadian media doesn’t discuss these scientists are Canadians or Americans, otherwise they are happy on their achievements, and they feel sorry that Canada can not attract them to work in their own country. Why Canadians and Chinese have different feedback on the similar situation?
Dr.Kao’s award has another very positive affection on all fiber optics engineers, researchers. Since the first fiber cable was manufactured according to Dr. Kao’s theory in early 1970’s, this technology has made very big advancement. The advancement is so big that it is very hard for today’s researchers and engineers to make new improvements. Investments from both public and private side on this technology are dwindling. Wireless technology gets more and more attention from the government, form the investors. A friend of mine, who is a professor on fiber optics technology told me that he was so happy to see Dr. Kao’s award. From this award, fiber optics will attract more attention than before.
When Dr. Kao was still the president of the Chinese University of Hongkong, I was an exchange student in E.E department which Dr. Kao founded in 1970. I once had an opportunity to listen to his speech. I had forgotten what he talked about that day, I only remembered that he was talking in Mandarin with a typical Shanghai accent. In an environment where everyone uses Cantonese, Dr. Kao impressed me very deeply. It is my honor that I once worked in the same university with him, and I became a fiber optics engineer after my graduation.