Who invented fiber optics?
The technology of fiber optics was pioneered with experiments in the 1800s with light channeled through a stream of water (Jean-Daniel Colladon) and glass rods (William Wheeler). In 1930, Heinrich Lamm became the first to transmit an image of an incandescent filament through a bundle of glass fibers, although the result was too dim and blurry for any practical application.
Modern fiber optic technology can be attributed to research and development done in the 19th and 20th centuries by Møller Hansen, Brian O’Brien, Sebastiaan van Heel, and others. Simultaneously, Harold Hopkins and Narinder S. Kapany independently implemented the first fiber optic system for viewing the inside of a patient’s stomach during an endoscopy. Between the work of these two parties, the complete concept of flexible glass rods, clad in a medium of a higher index of reflectivity, was published.
Plastic light guides were invented by DuPont in the 1930s, and superseded glass in medical and dental lighting applications because it was lighter, cheaper, and more durable. These went on to be the basis for plastic optical fiber in the late 1960s, but the fibers suffered impractically high signal losses. Development of POF continued, but very few applications for it existed until the 1990s, following a sharp increase in demand for high-bandwidth communication and consumer-grade digital equipment.
J. Hecht, City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999.
O. Ziemann et al., POF Handbook. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2008.