When Robert Maurer and his two colleagues, Donald Keck and Peter Schultz, devised a way to strengthen fiber optic cable and enable the transmission of laser light over long distances, they had no idea how it would change the world.
Maurer headed up the project in the late 1960s, overseeing the team at Corning Glass Works, now named Corning, Inc. Their invention of low-loss optical fiber in 1970 is still the cornerstone of communications today, sparking the development of the Internet and ushering in the golden age of telecommunications. But, as with most inventions, their means were initially crude ― at one point resorting to a vacuum cleaner to help create the first strands.
Corning subsequently became the first company to market the cable, and fiber optics eventually landed in households and businesses around the world, powering phones, televisions and computers. Maurer, Keck and Schultz were officially honored for their groundbreaking work in 1993, when they were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.