Inventor of Laser Charles Townes Lectures at the Chinese University
¡@¡@Professor Townes was born in South Carolina, USA in 1915. He graduated summa cum laude from Furman University in 1935 with a BS in physics and a BA in modern languages, then received his MA in physics from Duke University in 1936 and his PhD in 1939 from the California Institute of Technology. He worked in Bell Laboratories and served as full professor of Columbia University.
¡@¡@In 1951, Professor Townes began his research on problems that eventually led to the laser. His group began working on a device using ammonia gas as the active medium for optics. This led to the first amplification and generation of electromagnetic waves by stimulated emission in early 1954. They called this device a maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). In 1958, Professor Townes and Dr. A. L. Schawlow showed theoretically that masers could be made to operate in the optical and infrared region and this work resulted in their joint paper on optical and infrared masers, or lasers (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation).
¡@¡@In 1961, Professor Townes was appointed provost and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he later became Institute Professor. In 1964, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Nicolay Gennadiyevich Basov and Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov "for fundamental work in quantum electronics which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle." Besides, Professor Townes has received many honours, awards, and numerous honorary degrees from universities over the world.
¡@¡@In 1966, he resigned from the position of provost at MIT to return to more intensive research, particularly in the fields of quantum electronics and astronomy. He was appointed University Professor at the University of California in 1967.
¡@¡@Professor Townes continues to do research at the University of California, Berkeley, where his current work involves very high angular resolution astronomy in the mid-infrared through the use of interferometric techniques. He is currently chairman of the US Science and Technology Advisory Committee for Manned Space Flight of NASA, member of the US President's Science Advisory Committee, vice president of the American Physical Society, and member of various academic societies.
¡@¡@Professor Townes married Frances H. Brown in 1941. They now live in Berkeley, California and have four daughters.