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Optical Networking Best Practices Handbook by John R. Vacca

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1.1. FIBER OPTICS: A BRIEF HISTORY IN TIME

Very little is known about the first attempts to make glass. The Roman historian Pliny attributed it to Phoenician sailors [1]. He recounted how they landed on a beach, propped a cooking pot on some blocks of natron that they were carrying as cargo, and made a fire over which to cook a meal. The sand beneath the fire melted and ran in a liquid stream that later cooled and hardened into glass, to their surprise.

Daniel Colladon, in 1841, made the first attempt at guiding light on the basis of total internal reflection in a medium [1]. He attempted to couple light from an arc lamp into a stream of water. A large metal tube was filled with water and the cork removed from a small hole near the bottom, demonstrating the parabolic form of jets of water. A lamp placed opposite the jet opening illustrated total internal reflection. John Tyndall, in 1870, demonstrated that light used internal reflection to follow a specific path [2]. Tyndall directed a beam of sunlight at a path of water that flowed from one container to another. It was seen that the light followed a zigzag path inside the curved path of the water. The first research into the guided transmission of light was marked by this simple experiment.

In 1880, William Wheeling patented this method of light transfer, called piping light [2]. Wheeling believed that by using mirrored pipes branching off from a single source of illumination (a bright electric arc), he could send light to many ...

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