May 7, 2012
Virgin Islands Next Generation board member Peter Schultz has received a Milestone Award in electrical engineering and computing from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the invention of low-loss fiber. Schultz has a St. Thomas residence, and he is junior warden of Nazareth-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church on St. Thomas.
The Virgin Islands Next Generation is a subsidiary of the V.I. Public Finance Authority, and was created to build and operate the territory’s first open-access broadband network. The $117 million broadband expansion project is funded by four federal grants awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration – a division of the U.S. Commerce Department.
Schultz is a founding director of the government entity working to build the new network and he is an expert on fiber-optics. He recently traveled to New York to accept the award, which he shares with his fellow Corning Inc. inventors who developed the first low-loss fiber optics for telecommunications in 1970. The IEEE Milestone Award recognizes significant technical achievement and innovation that occurred at least 25 years ago. A commemorative bronze plaque was placed on a granite pillar at Corning’s Sullivan Park Research Center in Corning where Schultz and his colleagues invented fiber optics.
Low-loss optical fiber was invented by three Corning scientist – Robert Maurer, Schultz, and Donald Keck – after representatives of the British Post Office came to Corning in the mid- 1960s seeking assistance in creating pure glass fiber optics, according to a statement issued by Corning. The scientists produced an optical fiber far superior to the best bulk optical glasses of the day.
In recognition of this achievement, Maurer, Schultz and Keck have been inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and were awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000. “The demonstration of low-loss transmission through optical fiber showed us immediately that optical communications could be practical,” IEEE president and CEO Gordon Day said in a statement. “But few recognized, or could have recognized, that in a few decades it would change the lives of almost everyone in the world. The first low-loss fiber was a truly defining moment in the history of technology in the 20th century.”
Since establishing the program in 1983, the IEEE has awarded more than 100 Milestone awards around the world. The IEEE Milestones recognize the work of leading inventors, including Benjamin Franklin, Samuel F.B. Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison; and innovative companies, including Westinghouse, Philips, IBM, and HP.