The first fibres
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16
As early as 1888, doctors were using bent glass rods to illuminate the insides of their patients’ bodies. By the beginning of the 20th century, dentists had begun to use curved quartz as dental illuminators. A significant innovation on the path to the development of fibre optics was made by Charles Vernon Boys, a British physics teacher. Boys used a tiny crossbow to fire a needle threaded with a piece of straw which had been dipped in molten glass to create glass fibres 27 m long but only 2.5 μm in diameter. One of Boys’ students was the writer H. G. Wells who reported that his teacher was more interested in his research than his students; he “messed about with the blackboard, galloped through an hour of talk, and bolted back to the apparatus in his room”.
The patent on using a bundle of rods or fibres to transmit images was originally acquired by John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, in the 1920s as a potential means of transmitting images.