To many people the words 'carbon fibre' describe a single material, but it is as generic a term as the word 'metal'. In the same way metal covers a range of elements from aluminium to zinc, so too does carbon fibre describe a plethora of different combinations of fibre and resin, each with unique and exploitable properties.
In general engineering carbon fibre is still thought of as a relatively new material, but the fibres as we know them today were first made by Swan for use in lightbulbs in 1860. In the mid twentieth century small samples of high-performance fibres were being made in laboratories, but it wasn't until 1963, when researchers at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough developed a method many companies went on to commercialise, that the material became viable.
I remember as a child my father bringing home a sample from Farnborough and telling me it was the material of the future. How right he was, but neither of us could have guessed how much it would play a part in my professional life.