An engineering graduate from an East London Polytechnic is sharing this year's physics Nobel Prize.
Charls Kuen Kao, 75, is lauded for his work in the UK in helping to develop fibre optic cables, the thin threads of glass that carry phone and net data as light.
Now his invention is the mainstay of communication age, especially the internet.
He shares the prize with North Americans Willard Boyle and George Smith, who are recognised for their part in the invention of the charge-coupled device, or CCD. This light detector initiated the digital camera revolution.
Kao, who attended what is now called the University of Greenwich in the 1950s, carried out his Nobel-prize winning research while working at Standard Telephones and Cables in Harlow, now owned by the telecommunications multinational Nortel.
His team proposed the means to improve dramatically the purity - and therefore the efficiency - of the glass material used to construct the fibres.
In 1966, Kao made the discovery that led to a breakthrough in fibre optics. He carefully calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibres. He found that with a fibre of purest glass it would be possible to transmit light signals over 100 kilometers, compared to only 20 meters for the fibres available in the 1960s.
Today, fibre optics underpin the communication age: the modern telephony system is built on the technology, and high-speed broadband internet would not be possible without it.
Lord Drayson, the science minister, said: ?I am delighted to congratulate Charles Kao on this tremendous achievement. This is a proud day for Charles and for the whole country.
"His achievements in fibre optic technology have transformed the way the world communicates, entertains and does business.
?This prize demonstrates the immense contribution UK researchers bring to science.?
Professor Kao will receive half of the 10m Swedish kronor (£818,000) prize money, while Professors Smith and Boyle will take a quarter each.
Announcing the laureates at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the Nobel assembly said the research "had helped to shape the foundations of today?s networked societies. They have created many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration".
Added the 09 October 2009 in category Innovation News