Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94


Narinder Singh Kapany was born on October 31, 1926 in Moga, a city in Punjab in northwest India, and grew up in Dehradun, about 200 miles east. His father, Sundar Singh Kapany, worked in the coal industry; his mother, Kundan Kaur Kapany, was a housewife. After graduating from Agra University (now Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University), he worked for a government ammunition factory in Dehradun before moving to England.

Despite his love of research, Dr. Kapany never planned to become an academic scientist. He had originally moved to the UK to do an internship at an optics company in Scotland to learn skills that would enable him to start his own business in India. However, the opportunity to work with Professor Hopkins, a preeminent figure in the world of optics, was too tempting to resist.

However, their relationship proved unstable, albeit fruitful: both were physically imposing men with oversized personalities, and they fell out soon after their seminal work was published in Nature. Professor Hopkins accused Dr. Kapany for overrating his contribution; Dr. Kapany replied that only he could translate the professor’s board reflections into reality.

In 1954, shortly after the Nature article appeared, Dr. Kapany Satinder Kaur as he was an Indian studying dance in London. The next year the two sailed for New York after being offered a job at the University of Rochester and a consulting contract with Bausch & Lomb, the eye care company.

Two years later, after the birth of their son Raj, the Kapanys moved to Illinois, where Dr. Kapany accepted a teaching position at the Illinois Institute of Technology and where their daughter Kiran was born.

Satinder Kapany died in 2016. Dr. Kapany is survived by his two children and four grandchildren.

Dr. Kapany made a dashing figure in the Chicago social scene – his jackets tailored and slim, his beard tied tightly to his chin and his mustache “like David Niven’s,” said his son, referring to the British actor.