Date: Feb. 22, 2000
Contacts: Bob Ludwig, Media Relations Associate
Kathi McMullin, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>

Developers of Fiber Optics
To Receive $500,000 Draper Prize At Feb. 22 Event

WASHINGTON -- Three engineers -- Charles K. Kao, Robert D. Maurer, and John B. MacChesney -- are in Washington to collect $500,000 for winning the 1999 Charles Stark Draper Prize. The prize will be presented at a dinner tonight as part of National Engineers Week.

The Charles Stark Draper Prize, established by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and endowed by Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass., has been awarded since 1988 to recognize individuals whose outstanding engineering achievements have contributed to the well-being and freedom of humanity. The once-biennial prize will now be awarded annually.

Tonight's presentation will take place in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the U.S. Department of State, 2201 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reporters who wish to attend must contact Bob Ludwig at (202) 334-2138 by noon today.

This year's award celebrates fiber-optic technology, a watershed development in the global telecommunications and information technology revolution. Optical fiber uses light to carry vast amounts of information through silica fiber material that is thinner than a human hair. Its low manufacturing cost and ability to transmit much more information than copper wire has fueled an explosion in global communications. It is the "concrete" of the information superhighway. By the end of 1998 more than 215 million kilometers of optical fiber had been installed worldwide, enough to stretch to the moon and back nearly 280 times.

Kao, who was working at ITT's Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in the 1960s, theorized about how to use light for communication instead of bulky copper wire and was the first to publicly propose the possibility of a practical application for fiber-optic telecommunication. Maurer led a team of researchers at Corning Inc. that included co-inventors Donald Keck and Peter Schultz, who designed and produced the first optical fiber in 1970. MacChesney and his colleagues at Bell Laboratories -- formerly part of AT&T and now the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies -- followed in 1974 with the Modified Chemical Vapor Deposition process, which provided a path to the practical mass production of high-quality optical fiber.

Maurer retired from Corning Inc. in 1989 and resides in Painted Post, N.Y. Kao and MacChesney are still involved in telecommunications research and development. Kao is chairman and chief executive officer of Transtech Services Ltd., Hong Kong, and MacChesney is a research fellow at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, N.J.

Charles Stark Draper, the "father of inertial navigation, evolved the theory, invented and developed the technology, and led the effort that brought inertial navigation to operational use in aircraft, space vehicles, and submarines. Draper developed the sophisticated navigational system that landed the Apollo astronauts on the moon and returned them safely to Earth. He was elected to the NAE in 1965.

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering provides engineering leadership in service to the nation, and works to build and articulate the implications of rapid technological change, affecting the way people work, learn, and play. Operating under the same congressional Act of Incorporation signed in 1863 by President Lincoln that established the National Academy of Sciences, the NAE is directed whenever called on by any department or agency of the government, to investigate, examine, experiment, and report on any subject of science and technology.

For more information about the National Academy of Engineering and the Draper Prize, contact Daniel N. Whitt Jr., NAE awards administrator, at (202) 334-1237. Visit the NAE Web site at <>.


1999 Charles Stark Draper Prize Committee

Mary L. Good, Ph.D. (1) (chair)
Former Undersecretary for Technology
U.S. Department of Commerce, and
Managing Member
Venture Capital Investors, LLC
Little Rock, Ark.

Richard Balzhiser, Ph.D. (1)
President Emeritus
Electric Power Research Institute Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.

Thomas F. Budinger, M.D., Ph.D. (1,2)
Head, Center for Functional Imaging
E.O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Berkeley, Calif.

Fernando J. Corbato, Ph.D. (1)
Professor Emeritus of Computer Science
and Engineering, and Senior Lecturer
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Maurice C. Fuerstenau, Sc.D. (1)
Echo Bays Mines Distinguished Professor
Mackay School of Mines
University of Nevada

Elsa M. Garmire, Ph.D. (1)
Thayer School of Engineering
Dartmouth College
Hanover, N.H.

John H. Gibbons, Ph.D. (1)
Former Assistant to the President for Science
and Technology, and Former Director
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
The Plains, Va.

Siegfried S. Hecker, Ph.D. (1)
Senior Fellow
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, N.M.

Paul C. Jennings, Ph.D. (1)
Professor of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics
California Institute of Technology

Henry Petroski, Ph.D. (1)
A.S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering
Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering
Duke University
Durham, N.C.

Herbert H. Richardson, Sc.D., P.E. (1)
Associate Vice Chancellor for Engineering, and
Director, Texas Transportation Institute
Texas A&M University System
College Station

Maxine L. Savitz, Ph.D. (1)
General Manager
Ceramic Components
AlliedSignal Inc.
Torrance, Calif.

Robert M. White, Sc.D. (1)
President Emeritus, National Academy of Engineering, and
Principal, Washington Advisory Group
Washington, D.C.


Daniel N. Whitt Jr.
NAE Awards Administrator

(1) Member, National Academy of Engineering
(2) Member, Institute of Medicine