Donald Keck: Optical fiber waveguides

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In the annals of great statements made at history-changing moments, "Whoopee!" doesn't usually come to mind. If you spend any time in the fiber optics field, however, it should at least ring a bell.

Donald Keck

Keck (Image source: invent.org)

That was Don Keck's journal entry on a quiet evening in August 1970 when he noted that his team's latest test, transmitting light through a 65-foot-long strand of heat-treated silica fiber, achieved an attenuation of 16 db/km, exceeding his Optical WaveGuide team's goal of 20 db/km.

Working with Robert Maurer and Peter Schulz, Keck had achieved a breakthrough in communications technology, one that is continuing to change and influence the wireline industry in this century as fiber optic networks are built out worldwide. Fiber optics, of course, has made the entire high-speed bandwidth revolution possible, while challenging legacy technologies to push the envelope in terms of what they can deliver to compete with fiber.

Keck spent his entire career at Corning, continuing to improve optical fiber, including its manufacturing process and equipment like optical couplers and splitters.  He retired from the company in 2002 as Vice President and Director of Research.

Among the honors given to Keck are a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Medal of Technology, the United States' highest honor for innovators.