Optical Technology Inventor Elected to National Academy of Engineering

Jonathan Heritage, foreground, with PowerPoint slide behind him, reading "Jonathan Heritage: We Love You."
<strong>The professor during his department&rsquo;s 2018 staff and faculty awards program, held in the Jonathan Heritage Meeting Room, named in his honor. The program included an opening ceremony for the renamed room.</strong>

Professor Emeritus Jonathan Heritage of the University of California, Davis, is among 86 newly elected members of the National Academy of Engineering, announced Thursday (Feb. 7).

Jonathan Heritage mugshot

“Professor Heritage’s many contributions to engineering have made a significant impact on modern optical communication networks and information processing, including his landmark patent for a multi-wavelength, cross-connect optical switch,” said Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are grateful for his dedication and commitment to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the college.”

The switch she referenced is the wavelength selective switch, or WSS, invented at UC Davis by Heritage, Olav Solgaard and Amal Bhattarai. The patent was granted in 2000 within a decade of Heritage’s arrival on campus.

The switch is used in fiberoptic networks, in which pulses of light shoot through fiberoptic cables to transmit information, say, for the internet and telecommunications. The WSS was for some years among the most successful inventions in the University of California’s portfolio.

Heritage earned a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in physics from San Diego State University. He worked at Bell Laboratories and Bellcore before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1991.

Counting Heritage, UC Davis has 14 current and emeritus faculty members in the 55-year-old academy, an honor that is among the highest in the nation in the profession. Membership recognizes outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice and education, pioneering new fields and advancing technologies.

Formal induction of the newest members is scheduled for Oct. 6 during the academy’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Media Resources

Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

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