Donald B. Keck
Born Jan 2 1941
Fused Silica Optical Waveguide; Method of Producing Optical Waveguide Fibers
Patent Number(s) 3,659,915; 3,711,262
Corning Glass researchers Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, and Peter Schultz made optical fiber, capable of carrying 65,000 times more information than conventional copper wire, a practical reality.
In 1970 Maurer, Keck, and Schultz designed and produced the first optical fiber with optical losses low enough for wide use in telecommunications. Previously, the limiting factor was the amount of light lost during transmission. The key was restricting light loss to 20 decibels per kilometer (at least one percent of the light entering a fiber remains after traveling one kilometer). Scientists around the world had worked on the problem for years to no avail.
Optical fiber is the foundation for the global, multimedia telecommunications network of tomorrow. More than 90 percent of the U.S. long-distance traffic is already carried over optical fiber; more than 800 million kilometers has been installed, virtually all of it using the original design of Maurer, Keck and Schultz.
The discovery by the group at Corning was quickly recognized as a breakthrough, paving the way for the commercialization of optical fiber and literally creating a revolution in telecommunications.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Keck received his B.S. in 1962, M.S. in 1964, and a Ph.D. in 1967, all from Michigan State University. He joined Corning as a research physicist in 1968. He went on to become vice president and executive director of research until his retirement in 2002. In 2000, he received the National Medal of Technology in recognition for his work with Robert Maurer and Peter Schultz.