John B. MacChesney

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John Burnette MacChesney II (born July 8, 1929) is a Bell Labs pioneer in optical communication, best known for his 1974 invention of the modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) process with colleague P.B. O'Connor, and for co-inventing high-purity "sol-gel" overcladding for optical fiber in the early 1980s. These inventions were key to the commercial manufacture of optical fiber.


MacChesney was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey on July 8, 1929 to John Burnette MacChesney I. He received his B.A. degree from Bowdoin College in 1951, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and subsequently studied at City College of New York and New York University while working in New York City. In 1959 he received his Ph.D. in geochemistry from Pennsylvania State University, and joined Bell Labs, examining electrical and magnetic properties of ceramics and single crystals. In 1972 he turned his attention to glass and then to erbium and other rare-earth materials for fiber optic amplifiers.

He is an adjunct professor at Brown and Rutgers Universities, as well as the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea, and holds more than a hundred domestic and foreign patents. He has received the Charles Stark Draper Prize (1999), the John Tyndall Award (1999), the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award (1978), and other awards from the American Ceramic Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, and the Research and Development Council of New Jersey. In 1985 MacChesney was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.