Lorne A. Whitehead General Physics, Subatomic Particles, Optics, Biophysics, Theoretical Physics

Invented and developed the Prism Light Guide System

The Story

In 1978, while still a student at UBC, Whitehead made a key discovery which led him to begin work on the light pipe. He showed theoretically that the `total internal reflection’ effect used in optical fibres could be harnessed in large hollow pipes, if they could be coated with precise gem-like prisms. His research on structured surface physics — the study of interfaces containing precision structures on a scale of 0.1 to 100 micrometres — led to the prism light guide. His system is important because it can make use either of sunlight or electric light as a source and carry it with very little loss to a distant room or object. His physics research continues to generate innovations in lighting, image display technology, optics, electromagnetic filters and thin flexible sound sources.

Sources: The Manning Awards; Science Council of British Columbia; Canadian Association of Physics; Image: Canadian Association of Physics website


The Person

Physicist; Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
  • BSc, University of British Columbia, 1977
  • MSc, University of British Columbia, 1979
  • PhD, University of British Columbia, 1989
  • CAP (Canadian Assoc. of Physics) Prize for Innovative Young Physicists, 1984
  • Ernest C. Manning Principal Award for Innovation in Canada, 1984
  • British Columbia Science and Engineering Gold Medal for Industrial Innovation, 1995
  • Taylor Technical Talent Award (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America - co-recipient), 1996
  • several Edwin Guth memorial awards
  • CAP Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Industrial and Applied Physics, 1999
Last Updated
April 8, 2015

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