Ping King Tien

Ping King Tien
Ping King Tien
Chekiang, China
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
Fields of study
IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award


Ping King (P. K.) Tien was born in Chekiang, China in 1919. He earned his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from National Central University in China in 1942 and M.S. and Ph. D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1948 and 1952, respectively. He joined Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1952 and was appointed Head, Electron Physics Research Department in 1959.

Dr. Tien has been instrumental in making significant advances in a number of diverse fields in applied physics and electrical engineering including traveling-wave tubes, backward-wave oscillators, traveling-wave ferromagnetic amplifiers, noise in parametric devices, multiphoton processes in superconducting tunnel junctions, acousto-electric interactions in solids and integrated optics.

His current research deals with the area of integrated optics which is an important adjunct to the field of fiber optics. Here, it was his profound understanding of the coupled electromagnetic waves that led him to discover a simple but extremely elegant technique of coupling free space optical propagation modes to the guided modes of optical thin film waveguides. This discovery which resulted in a "prism-film coupler" can be considered a singular event that has completely revolutionized the experimental investigations of light wave propagation in thin films. His analysis led Dr. Tien to the discovery of yet another coupler- a tapered thin film coupler which has become important in coupling of a guided thin film mode to a guided mode of an optical fiber, and in the coupling of guided mode of one film to that of another. Dr. Tien has explored the low loss materials for passive thin film guides as well as for active devices such as thin film modulators, deflectors, switches, etc. He led the efforts towards the realization of low-loss garnet films through this theoretical study of the magnetic materials. The field of magneto-optical phenomena in thin films was thus born, These studies have now resulted in operational large band width (> 500 MHz) magneto-optic modulators and electrooptic thin film deflectors. He has also been instrumental in the pioneering studies of prisms, reflectors, lenses and polarizers for thin film optics. Thus Dr. Tien has literally founded the field of integrated optics.

Dr. Tien is a Fellow of IEEE and the Optical Society of America, He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1975 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978.

Tien received the 1979 IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award "For contributions to integrated optics technology." He is recognized most widely for his research in microwave amplifiers and integrated optical circuits.