Photo of Herwig Kogelnik

Herwig Kogelnik

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Communications

For his pioneering contributions and leadership in the development of the technology of lasers, optoelectronics, integrated optics, and lightwave communication systems that have been instrumental in driving the growth of fiber optic transmission systems for our Nation’s communications infrastructure.

Herwig Kogelnik reflects

Some of the greatest discoveries involving lasers may, in part, be owed to the sport of tennis. As a boy, Herwig Kogelnik dreamed of playing the violin professionally. When he was 18, Kogelnik’s violin teacher realized his wrist had grown too stiff. The teacher told him tennis was to blame, and urged him to give up the sport. But Kogelnik loved tennis more than he loved the violin, casting the instrument aside instead of his racket.

Kogelnik looked for a new challenge, and found it in electronics. Before the end of the decade, he earned a degree in engineering, a doctorate in electrical engineering, and – from the University of Oxford – a Ph.D. in physics. It was during his time at Oxford that Kogelnik first met Rudi Kompfner, then-director of research at Bell Labs, who convinced him to switch his focus to a new form of communication: the laser.

Kogelnik continued to study lasers — and play tennis — for the next five decades.

By Jake New