Milestone-Proposal:The world’s first low-loss optical fiber for telecommunications

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Docket #:2011-09

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy.

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

The world’s first low-loss optical fiber for telecommunications

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Photonics Society

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Photonics Society
Senior Officer Name: James A Coleman

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Photonics Society
Senior Officer Name: Dr. Richard R. Grzybowski

Unit: IEEE Photonics Society
Senior Officer Name: Claudio Mazzali

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Photonics Society
IEEE Section Chair name: James A Coleman

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Dr. Richard R. Grzybowski
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Sullivan Park Research Center, 1 Science Center Drive, Painted Post, NY

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The plaque will be located at Corning’s Sullivan Park Research Center in the front of the Fundamental Research building, the site of the invention.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The area is secured by a gate. Corning Security will raise the gate for visitors wishing to park and view the plaque.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Corning Incorporated

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Corning’s invention of the first low-loss optical fiber and the manufacturing process used to produce it revolutionized the telecommunications industry and changed the world forever. The explosion of the Internet and other information technologies would not have been possible without optical fiber. Only optical fiber provides the nearly limitless bandwidth required for high-speed transmission of voice, data, and video the world depends upon for the way we live, work and play. Today, there are more than 1.5 billion kilometers of fiber installed around the globe.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

During the mid-1960s, members of the British Post Office came to Corning seeking assistance in creating pure glass fiber optics. Their design required a single-mode fiber (100 micron diameter with a 0.75 micron core) having a total attenuation of about 20 dB/km. The very best bulk optical glasses of the day had attenuations of approximately 1,000 dB/km. This meant Corning’s scientists had to see an improvement in transparency of 1,098 in order to reach the 20 dB/km goal. It seemed impossible, but they did it, inventing an optical fiber with attenuation of 17 db/km.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

This breakthrough work established the optical fiber category. There were no similar achievements at the time of the invention. In recognition of this achievement, the three scientists responsible for inventing low-loss optical fiber – Dr. Robert Maurer, Dr. Peter Schultz, and Dr. Donald Keck – have been inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and were awarded the National Medal of Technology.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.