AS the man behind technology we use every day when we go online, make a mobile phone call or take money out from a cash point, he is already one of the UK’s most highly-honoured scientists.

But today University of Southampton Professor David Payne is celebrating after being knighted in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for services to photonics, the science and application of light and electronics.

In 1987, Professor Payne developed the first optical fibre amplifier – a crucial component in the Internet’s ability to transmit huge amounts of data which is widely regarded as one of the most significant developments in modern telecommunications.

He said: “I was recently described by my peers as the man who made phone calls free.

“While this is an exaggeration, it conveys the profound impact of the optical internet on our daily lives.

“Thousands of engineers and scientists worked away in the background and changed our world for the better.

“When some of us are recognised publically for what we have achieved, it is a wonderful accolade for us all.”

Professor Payne’s many other inventions navigate airliners, cut steel, mark smart phones, manufacture life-saving medical devices, help defend the country and power the Internet, while his activities have led to the creation of nine Hampshire firms.