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MURRAY HILL, N.J. -- John MacChesney, a scientist at Bell Labs, the research and development arm of Lucent Technologies, will receive the engineering profession's highest honor, the Charles Stark Draper Prize, for his invention and development of the modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) process, a world standard for optical-fiber manufacturing.

MacChesney is a member of the Photonics Materials Research department at Bell Labs, Murray Hill, N.J. The award, announced by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) at its annual meeting here this week, will be presented Feb. 22 at a ceremony during National Engineers Week.

Sharing the $500,000 prize with MacChesney will be Charles Kao, formerly of Standard Telecommunications Laboratories Ltd. in England, and Robert Maurer, formerly of Corning Inc. All three contributed to the development of low-loss fibers as a transmission medium for light and an enabler of optical communications.

Endowed by the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., the Draper Prize recognizes outstanding engineering achievements that have contributed to the welfare and freedom of humanity. The first Draper Prize was awarded in 1989 to Jack S. Kilby and Robert N. Noyce for their invention of the integrated circuit. Recipients of the prize have included the inventors of the turbojet engine, the developer of FORTRAN computer language, and the developers of satellite communications.

"The availability of low-cost optical-fiber has fueled the explosion in worldwide communications and use of the Internet," said Alastair Glass, director of the Bell Labs Photonics Research Lab.

"The engineering manufacturing advances of the MCVD process made practical fiber-optic telecommunications systems a reality," said NAE President Wm. A. Wulf.

Optical fiber is used in communications systems to carry voice, data and images using light pulses, or photons, encoded with digital information. It is made of ultra-pure glass with an outer layer, or cladding, that has a different index of refraction than that of the fiber's core, to confine the information-carrying light pulses to the vicinity of the core.

MacChesney, a pioneer in optical communication, is best known for the invention of MCVD technology, which he developed with his Bell Labs colleague P.B. O'Connor, in the early 1970s. With MCVD, the required glass purity is achieved by heating chemical vapors and oxygen in the protected environment of a silica glass tube. Ultra-transparent glass deposited on the wall of the tube forms the higher-refractive-index core of the eventual fiber. The tube is collapsed into a solid and the finished glass rod, or preform, is later heated to temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees Centigrade to stretch the glass to the thinness of a strand of human hair.

A Bell Labs scientist since 1959, MacChesney first engaged in research on ceramics and single crystals of interest for their electrical or magnetic properties. In 1972, he turned his attention to glass and later to finding ways to use erbium or other rare-earth materials to make optical fibers that amplify lightwave signals.

He holds more than a hundred domestic and foreign patents, including key patents for the processing of photonic components, and has had a similar number of technical articles published. MacChesney was elected to the NAE, one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer, in 1985.

He has received awards from the American Ceramic Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the American Physical Society, the Society of Sigma Xi, and the Research and Development Council of New Jersey, among others. He is a Fellow of Bell Labs and the American Ceramic Society and is a member of the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society and other scientific organizations.

He holds a B.A. degree from Bowdoin College and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and is an adjunct professor at Brown and Rutgers Universities, as well as the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea.

The Draper Prize is named for Charles "Doc" Draper, the father of modern inertial guidance systems used in aircraft, space vehicles, strategic missiles, and submarines. Draper also developed the sophisticated navigational system that landed the Apollo astronauts on the moon and returned them safely to Earth.

Lucent Technologies, the largest vertically integrated fiber-optic cable manufacturer in the world, has a long list of "firsts" in optical-fiber technology. Bell Labs researchers have garnered more than 2,000 patents and have presented thousands of technical papers in optical technology

Lucent's industry-leading WaveStar(tm) OLS 400G fiber-optic system can transmit up to 400 gigabits (billion bits) of information per second over a single optical fiber. That's equivalent to transmitting 12,000 volumes of an encyclopedia in an instant.

Lucent, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., designs, builds and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, data networking systems, business telephone systems and microelectronic components. For more information on Lucent Technologies, visit the company's web site at

The National Academy of Engineering will broadcast a video news release, announcing the winners of the Draper Prize, via satellite using the following coordinates:

Wed., Oct. 6 from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time -- Telstar 5, Transponder 16, Downlink Frequency 4020 MHz Horizontal.

Thurs. Oct. 7 from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time -- Telstar 5, Transponder 15, Downlink Frequency 4000 MHz Vertical.

Oct. 6, 1999

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