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City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics, Jeff Hecht, 2004 Paperback
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City of Light: The Story of Fiber Optics, Jeff Hecht, 2004 Paperback

Light Brigade Part No.: F1-4909

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From Publishers Weekly
The first underwater telegraph cable was laid between England and the Continent in 1850, with the cable from America to Europe following in 1858. But for the next century, improvements in transcontinental communication came slowly. By the 1940s, Americans could talk to Europeans via a static-plagued radiophone. By the early 1980s, satellite transmissions had improved conversation clarity significantly, but callers were still annoyed by delay and feedback. Those who have made a transcontinental call recently, however, know that the wonders of fiber optics have made it possible to hear a pin drop on the Champs-Elysees. In this deft history, Hecht, a writer for the British weekly New Scientist, shows how the illuminated fountains that thrilled crowds at the great 19th-century exhibitions convinced scientists that light can be guided along narrow tubes. In our century, scientists used these tubes of light first to look inside the human body and then, as the physics of wave transmission were better understood, to transmit audio and optical information. Hecht explains which technological advances have made fiber optics the backbone of our telephone system in the last 10-15 years and how everyday applications should increase exponentially once fibers are connected directly to our homes. Already optical fibers are used in many surprising ways: guiding laser light in life-saving surgery; embedded in concrete to monitor stress in bridges; wound into gyroscopes to improve airline safety. Hecht's latter chapters are bogged down slightly with details that will mainly interest readers working in related areas, but general science buffs should enjoy his account of the development of the technology that will change our lives in many unexpected ways in the next quarter century.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal
An engineer by training, New Scientist correspondent Hecht explores the history of fiber optics in this interesting and far-reaching study. Beginning in Victorian Europe, his chronology traces the complex but fascinating drama of one of the key elements in today's global telecommunications explosion. Critical attention is given to the diverse group of participants actively working on fiber optics over the past 150 years, revealing the sometimes fortuitous steps to scientific discovery. This readable, well-documented, and scholarly text includes an informative glossary of names and a concise reference to fiber-optic development. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.ADayne Sherman, Southeastern Louisiana Univ., Hammond
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review
"In this deft history, Hecht, a writer for the British weekly New Scientist, shows how the illuminated fountains that thrilled crowds at the great 19th-century exhibitions convinced scientists that light can be guided along narrow tubes. In our century, scientists used these tubes of light first to look inside the human body and then, as the physics of wave transmission were better understood, to transmit audio and optical information. Hecht explains which technological advances have made fiber optics the backbone of our telephone system in the last 10-15 years and how everyday applications should increase exponentially once fibers are connected directly to our homes. . .[g]eneral science buffs should enjoy his account of the development of the technology that will change our lives in many unexpected ways in the next century." --Publishers Weekly

"Jeff Hecht brings to life the people, the competition, and the human drama behind this technological breakthrough. Prepare yourself for a delightful read as you discover what made the global village called the City of Light a reality whose potential for social change is still being fathomed." --Richard N. Zare, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, Department of Chemistry, Stanford University

"This book is a revelation and ranks with the best popular writing on science and technology. Jeff Hecht's meticulous research proves that even our newest technologies have a long past. His book tells the enthralling story of fiber optics, used today in nearly every facet of life, from transmitting digitized data to peering into and even operating on the human body. With an eye for forceful personalities, innovators and visionaries, he takes us from the birth of fiber optics in Victorian light-guiding parlor tricks and illuminated fountains to the Information Age, with limitless quantities of pure information coruscating globally along beams of light in glass fibers. Hecht embraces the human drama of the inventors with all their successes and foibles and transforms the city of light into an entertaining and illuminating celebration." --Martin C. Carey, Harvard University Medical School, Senior Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston

"This is one of the best popular books on a technical subject I have ever seen. It is written in a lively style and it covers all parts of the optical fiber story, from the very beginning to the present days, and, amazingly, all over the world." --Laszlo Solymar, Professor of Applied Electromagnetism, University of Oxford

"A marvelous chronicle of fiber optics technology which in large measure has created the Information Age. Jeff Hecht has not only presented the history of this remarkable technology--uncovering threads which I did not know--but captured the drama and human aspects which make this an interesting read for anyone. All the celebrities are here, each building on the other's foundation." --Donald B. Keck, Division Vice President, Director of Optics and Photonics, Corning, Inc

"As research manager responsible for the teams at STL who pioneered the use of optical fibres for communications, I can say with confidence that this book is a most carefully researched, very comprehensive and balanced account of world-wide success and failure. It makes fascinating and delightful reading." --Charles Sandbank, Department of Trade and Industry, United Kingdom, and Visiting Professor of Information Systems Design, University of Bradford

"An engineer by training, New Scientist correspondent Hecht explores the history of fiber optics in this interesting and far-reaching study. Beginning in Victorian Europe, his chronology traces the complex but fascinating drama of one of the key elements in today's global telecommunications explosion. . . . This readable, well-documented, and scholarly text includes an informative glossary of names and a concise reference to fiber-optic development. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries."--Library Journal

"In his latest book, City of Light . . . , science writer Jeff Hecht expertly tells the story of the painstaking discovery, rapid development, and remarkable applications of optical fibers. Hecht, a veteran contributing editor to Laser Focus World, has covered fiberoptic technology for more than 20 years. His book, the latest addition to Oxford's splendid Sloan Technology Series, traces the story of fiberoptics from a Victorian parlor trick to the foundation of today's global communications network. I strongly recommend City of Light for your own bookshelf and for anyone with an interest in communications."--Laser Focus World

"The technology of optical-fibre communications is arguably one of the most spectacular developments of the late 20th century. It touches all of our lives on a daily basis, and has created the worldwide communications that we all take for granted and that we expect to supply all our future needs. It is surprising, then, how little attention this remarkable story of fibre optics has received. This book makes an excellent start at redressing the balance. It provides for the first time a complete chronicle of the technology over the last 150 years, concentrating on the years to 1983. . . . This book will show you how this position has been achieved, who the main characters were, and how they were inspired by visions of the future that we now occupy. All in all, the author presents a wonderfully rich story that has been painstakingly researched and contains some excellent source notes."--Physics World

"This is the story of fiber optics, tracing its transformation from nineteenth century parlor trick into the foundation of our global communications network. Written for a broad audience by Hecht, an engineer and the Boston correspondent for New Scientist, who has covered the field for twenty years. The book is a lively account of both the people and the ideas behind this revolutionary technology. The basic concept underlying fiber optics was first explored in the 1840s when researchers used jets of water to guide light in laboratory demonstrations. The idea caught the public eye decades later when it was used to create stunning illuminated fountains at many of the great Victorian exhibitions. . . . In 1988, the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable connected Europe with North America, and now fiber optics is the key element in global communications."--Science Writers

Book Description
City of Light tells the story of fiber optics, tracing its transformation from 19th-century parlor trick into the foundation of our global communications network. Written for a broad audience by a journalist who has covered the field for twenty years, the book is a lively account of both the people and the ideas behind this revolutionary technology. The basic concept underlying fiber optics was first explored in the 1840s when researchers used jets of water to guide light in laboratory demonstrations. The idea caught the public eye decades later when it was used to create stunning illuminated fountains at many of the great Victorian exhibitions. The modern version of fiber optics--using flexible glass fibers to transmit light--was discovered independently five times through the first half of the century, and one of its first key applications was the endoscope, which for the first time allowed physicians to look inside the body without surgery. Endoscopes became practical in 1956 when a college undergraduate discovered how to make solid glass fibers with a glass cladding. With the invention of the laser, researchers grew interested in optical communications. While Bell Labs and others tried to send laser beams through the atmosphere or hollow light pipes, a small group at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories looked at guiding light by transparent fibers. Led by Charles K. Kao, they proposed the idea of fiber-optic communications and demonstrated that contrary to what many researchers thought glass could be made clear enough to transmit light over great distances. Following these ideas, Corning Glass Works developed the first low-loss glass fibers in 1970. From this point fiber-optic communications developed rapidly. The first experimental phone links were tested on live telephone traffic in 1977 and within half a dozen years long-distance companies were laying fiber cables for their national backbone systems. In 1988, the first transatlantic fiber-optic cable connected Europe with North America, and now fiber optics are the key element in global communications. The story continues today as fiber optics spread through the communication grid that connects homes and offices, creating huge information pipelines and replacing copper wires. The book concludes with a look at some of the exciting potential developments of this technology.

Book Info
Presents the history behind the development of fiber optics from a 19th century parlor trick to the foundation of our global communications network. Covers the people and ideas behind the technology. DLC: Fiber optics. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author
Jeff Hecht met his first laser as a Caltech undergraduate in 1968, and took a while to figure out what it was good for. In his case, it was a lot of words--he's been writing about lasers and optics for the past thirty years.
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