News | November 1, 2012

Donald B. Keck Named Honorary Member Of The Optical Society


Keck honored for his contributions to optical communications

The Board of Directors of the Optical Society (OSA) announced recently that Donald B. Keck has been elected as the society’s newest Honorary Member. Keck was chosen for his “breakthrough contributions to the field of optical communications, including the invention of the first low-loss optical fiber, and for a history of service to OSA.”  Honorary Membership is OSA’s most distinguished membership status. Keck joins a group of just 44 OSA Honorary Members elected since the Society was founded in 1916.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of the development of low-loss optical fibers. The advances led by Don and his colleagues have resulted in the ability to transmit light without amplification through more than 100 kilometers of optical fiber.  This is not only a remarkable technical achievement, but has revolutionized communications,” said OSA President Tony Heinz. “Don’s development of low-loss optical fiber has been indispensable for the advent of the Internet era.  The Internet relies on the ability to transmit massive amounts of data across the globe through our communication network.  This would not be possible without the existence of low-loss optical fibers. The Optical Society is privileged to have benefited from Don’s vision and service for nearly 50 years. I am delighted to add his name to the remarkable group of Honorary Members.”

Keck studied physics at Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor’s in 1962, a Master’s in 1964, and a Ph.D. in 1967. After completing his studies, Keck spent 34 years at Corning Incorporated, ultimately serving as the corporate vice president of science and technology and the director of office of research. He was recruited by Corning specifically to work on the issue of optical loss in glass.

At Corning, Keck, along with co-inventors Robert Maurer and Peter Schultz, developed the first low-loss optical fiber suitable for wide-spread use in telecommunications. Virtually all long-distance communications traffic today is carried over optical fiber, both on land and under the sea. More than 1.6 billion kilometers of optical fiber encircle the world, providing the heart of today’s telecommunication network. Keck co-invented the inside vapor (IV) deposition process and the outside vapor (OV) deposition process for making fiber. The OV process ultimately became the leading method for the manufacture of fibers.  As the telecommunications field grew, so did Keck’s impact. He later invented technologies for fiber splitters and couplers.

Keck, who holds 36 U.S. patents, has been recognized through numerous prestigious awards, including the President’s National Medal of Technology, the U.S. Department of Commerce American Innovator Award, the OSA/IEEE John Tyndall Award, and membership in the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Engineering. Keck is an OSA Fellow and has been an active member of the society since 1963, including serving on the OSA Board of Directors from 1996-1997 and as editor for the OSA/IEEE publication the Journal of Lightwave Technology from 1989 -1994. He received an honorary doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2004 and a Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater in 1996.

Honorary membership at OSA is given to those who have made unique, seminal contributions to the field of optics. The number of Honorary Members cannot exceed two-thousandths (2/1,000) of the total OSA membership. Election requires the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors. For a complete listing of OSA's honorary members, visit OSA's website.

About OSA
Uniting more than 180,000 professionals from 175 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit

SOURCE: The Optical Society