The University of Southampton

Professor David Payne wins top communications prize

Published: 29 September 2008

ECS graduate and Professor, David Payne, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre, has won the 2008 Marconi Society Prize and Fellowship.

Professor David Payne is an internationally-distinguished photonics researcher and fibre optic pioneer, who was selected for this year's Prize for his pioneering work in the field of fibre optoelectronics and fibre telecommunications, the backbone of modern high speed data transmission.

He received the $100,000 prize at a special annual awards dinner held at the Royal Society on Friday 26 September. Of the many and major advances developed by Payne's research group, the best known is the invention of the erbium-doped fibre amplifier (EDFA), a type of optical amplifier on which rests the whole basis of our fibre telecommunications systems. This unique invention overcame the problem of transmitting data over large distances, a process which even when using highly transparent fibre, requires some degree of amplification.

Payne, 63, was born in England, but brought up in Africa, and returned to England to attend university. He earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical power engineering at the University of Southampton in 1967 and became that institution's first graduate student in the new optoelectronics research program. His work helped establish the Optoelectronics Research Centre as one of the leading fibre optic research facilities in the world and he joined the faculty as a professor of photonics, a position he has held for 40 years. He became Director of the ORC in 1995.

Says Payne: "I was incredibly fortunate to be offered the opportunity to work as one of the first in optical telecommunications. It created the high-speed connected world and its outstanding success has been one of man's greatest achievements. Without optical fibres and amplifiers it is hard to imagine the internet we know today."

Among the numerous awards and honours Payne has received are the top American, European and Japanese prizes in photonics. He has been honoured with the UK Rank Prize for Optics, the IEEE Photonics Award (the first awarded outside the USA) and more recently he was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences as one of only 240 foreign members. Earlier this year, he also received the Millennium Prize.

Payne, a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Academy of Engineering, lives with his wife Vanessa in Hamble, Southampton.

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