The University of Southampton

Obituary for Professor Alec Gambling - first Director of Southampton's Optoelectronics Centre

Published: 27 January 2021
Professor ALec Gambling

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Professor Alec Gambling aged 94 at his home in Spain on Jan 9, 2021. He was one of the founders of photonics at Southampton in the early 1960s and the first Director of the ORC in 1989. He also held the positions of Head of the Department of Electronics and Dean of Engineering at Southampton.

Professor William Alec Gambling was one of the pioneers worldwide in the development and use of optical fibre communications. He graduated in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bristol, received his PhD from the University of Liverpool, from where he went to the University of British Columbia, in Canada, as a Lecturer. In 1957 he joined the University of Southampton where he initiated research in the field of microwave devices as a first step on the road to Quantum Electronics and Lasers.

He was an early advocate for glass fibres as a suitable medium for the transmission of information through light. In 1966 following the seminal paper on the topic by Nobel Laureate Charles Kao, he founded one of the first research groups focused on optical fibres for telecommunications, the Optical Fiber Group in the Department of Electronics. In 1989, this group became a UK National Interdisciplinary Research Centre, the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), with more than 100 members and Professor Gambling as its first Director. Today the ORC is part of the Zepler Institute.

On his retirement in January 1996, Professor Gambling joined the Department of Electronic Engineering in the City University of Hong Kong, where he created a new Optoelectronics Research Centre.

As well as a distinguished research career, Professor Gambling was both Head of the Electronics Department and Dean of Engineering at Southampton. Of many awards for his research, he was honoured with the J.J. Thomson and Faraday Medals of the Institution of Electrical Engineers UK, the Churchill and Simms Medals of the Society of Engineers UK, the Mountbatten Medal of the National Electronics Council, as well as the International Micro-optics Award from Japan, and the Dennis Gabor Award from the USA. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

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