Narinder Singh Kapany was born on Oct. 31, 1926, in Moga, a town in Punjab, in northwest India, and raised in Dehradun, about 200 miles to the east. His father, Sundar Singh Kapany, worked in the coal industry; his mother, Kundan Kaur Kapany, was a homemaker. After graduating from Agra University (now Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University), he worked for a government munitions factory in Dehradun before moving to England.
Despite his love for research, Dr. Kapany had never planned on becoming an academic scientist. He had originally moved to Britain for an internship at an optics firm in Scotland, to learn skills he could use in starting his own company back in India. But the opportunity to work with Professor Hopkins, a towering figure in the world of optics, was too tempting to resist.
Their relationship, however, though fruitful, proved unstable: Both were physically imposing men with outsize personalities, and they fell out soon after publishing their seminal paper in Nature. Professor Hopkins accused Dr. Kapany of overstating his contribution; Dr. Kapany retorted that only he was able to turn the professor’s chalkboard musings into reality.
In 1954, soon after the Nature article appeared, Dr. Kapany married Satinder Kaur, like him an Indian native, who was studying dance in London. The next year the two sailed to New York after he was offered a job at the University of Rochester and a consulting contract with Bausch & Lomb, the eye care company.
Two years later, after the birth of their son, Raj, the Kapanys moved to Illinois, where Dr. Kapany took a job teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology and where their daughter, Kiran, was born.
Satinder Kapany died in 2016. Dr. Kapany is survived by his two children and four grandchildren.
Dr. Kapany cut a dashing figure around the Chicago social scene — his jackets custom made and slimly cut, his beard knotted tight to his chin and his mustache manicured “like David Niven’s,” his son said, referring to the British actor.