A University of Pennsylvania graduate, a fellow researcher at New Jersey's Bell Laboratories and a Shanghai-born scientist will share the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics for work on the optical side of the digital revolution.
George E. Smith, who got his B.A. from Penn in 1955 and lives in Waretown, Ocean County, and Nova Scotia-born Willard S. Boyle invented the charge-coupled device, an image-capturing technology that led to digital cameras in 1969.
They'll share half of the $1.4 million prize with Charles K. Kao, who in 1966 determined how to transmit light over long distances through optical glass fibers, which can carry information - text, music and pictures - more compactly and with less signal loss than metal wires.
These men "helped to shape the foundation of today's networked societies," the Nobel committee said in a statement.
"They have created many practical innovations for everyday life and provided new tools for scientific exploration."
Smith, who was born in White Plains, N.Y., in 1930, and Boyle, 85, worked at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., when they invented the charge-coupled device - an achievement that earned them the Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal in 1973.
"Smith recently completed a world cruise aboard his sailing vessel, Apogee," the National Academy of Engineering noted in 2006 when awarding Smith and Boyle the prestigious Draper Prize for their contributions to the advancement of engineering.
Kao, 76, who has British and U.S. citizenship, did his pioneering work, which showed that the purity of the glass fibers was critical, at Standard Telecommunications Laboratories in Harlow, England.
All three are retired.