Charles H. Townes
Townes in 2007
|Born||Charles Hard Townes
July 28, 1915
Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
|Died||January 27, 2015
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Thesis||Concentration of the heavy isotope of carbon and measurement of its nuclear spin (1939)|
|Doctoral advisor||William Smythe|
|Spouse||Frances Brown (m. 1941–2015) (his death)|
Charles Hard Townes (July 28, 1915 – January 27, 2015) was an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist and inventor. Townes was known for his work on the theory and application of the maser, on which he got the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics connected with both maser and laser devices. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov.
Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina, the son of Ellen Sumter Townes (née Hard; 1881-1980) and Henry Keith Townes (1876-1958), an attorney. He earned his B.S./B.A. at Furman University. Townes completed work for the Master of Arts degree in Physics at Duke University in 1936, and then entered graduate school at the California Institute of Technology, from where he received a Ph.D. degree in 1939. During World War II he worked on radar bombing systems at Bell Labs.
Townes was appointed Professor in 1950 at Columbia University. He served as Executive Director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory from 1950 to 1952. He was Chairman of the Physics Department from 1952 to 1955.
On April 26, 1951, while in Washington DC for a meeting of the Navy Millimeter Committee, he rose early and at 6 AM sat on a park bench in Washington DC's Franklin Park. While watching the azaleas in full bloom, he mused over his committee work and conceived a new way to apply the laws of physics to create intense, precise beams of coherent radiation. He coined the term maser for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and when the same principle was applied to higher frequencies the term laser was used. Theorists like Niels Bohr and John von Neumann doubted whether it was possible to create such a thing as a maser. Nobel laureates Isidor Isaac Rabi and Polykarp Kusch received the budget for their research from the same source as Townes. Three months before the first successful experiment, they tried to stop him: "Look, you should stop the work you are doing. It isn't going to work. You know it's not going to work, we know it's not going to work. You're wasting money, Just stop!"
In 1953, Townes, James P. Gordon, and H. J. Zeiger built the first ammonia maser at Columbia University. This device used stimulated emission in a stream of energized ammonia molecules to produce amplification of microwaves at a frequency of about 24.0 gigahertz.
From 1959 to 1961, he was on leave of absence from Columbia University to serve as Vice President and Director of Research of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization which advised the U.S. government and was operated by eleven universities. Between 1961 and 1967 Townes served as both Provost and Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then, in 1967, he was appointed as a Professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he remained for almost 50 years; his status was as professor emeritus by the time of his death in 2015. Between 1966 and 1970, he was chairman of the NASA Science Advisory Committee for the Apollo lunar landing program.
For his creation of the maser, Townes along with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov received the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics. Townes also pioneered the use of masers and lasers in astronomy, was part of a team that first discovered complex molecules in space, and determined the mass of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.
Personal life and legacy
A religious man and a member of the United Church of Christ, Townes believed that "science and religion [are] quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge". He wrote in a statement after winning the Templeton Prize in 2005: “Science tries to understand what our universe is like and how it works, including us humans. Religion is aimed at understanding the purpose and meaning of our universe, including our own lives. If the universe has a purpose or meaning, this must be reflected in its structure and functioning, and hence in science.”
Townes died at the age of 99 in Oakland, California, on January 27, 2015. “He was one of the most important experimental physicists of the last century,” Reinhard Genzel, a professor of physics at Berkeley, said of Townes. “His strength was his curiosity and his unshakable optimism, based on his deep Christian spirituality.”
Awards and honours
Townes was widely recognized for his scientific work and leadership.
- 1956 — elected Full Member of the National Academy of Sciences.
- 1957 — elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- 1958 — awarded the Comstock Prize in Physics from the National Academy of Science.
- 1959 — awarded the Richtmyer Memorial Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers.
- 1961 — awarded the David Sarnoff Electronics Award given by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Rumford Prize awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- 1962 — The John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science given by the National Academy of Science.
- 1962 — Stuart Ballantine Medal given by The Franklin Institute.
- 1963 — Young Medal and Prize, for distinguished research in the field of optics presented by the Institute of Physics.
- 1964 — Nobel Prize in Physics with Nikolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov for contributions to fundamental work in quantum electronics leading to the development of the maser and laser.
- 1970 — Wilhelm Exner Medal.
- 1979 — He was awarded the Niels Bohr international medal, for contributions to the peaceful use of atomic energy.
- 1980 — Townes was inducted by his home state into the South Carolina Hall of Science and Technology, and has also been awarded a South Carolina Hall of Science and Technology Citation.
- 1982 — He received the National Medal of Science, presented by President Ronald Reagan.
- 1983 — appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
- 1994 — elected Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
- 1996 — awarded the Frederic Ives Medal by the Optical Society of America
- 1997 — Jansky Lectureship before the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
- 1998 — awarded the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship by the American Astronomical Society.
- 2000 — awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
- 2003 — awarded the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology in Telluride, Colorado.
- 2004 — awarded the Italian Society of Optics and Photonics (SIOF) "Galileo" medal.
- 2005 — awarded the Templeton Prize for "Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities."
- He has also been awarded the LeConte Medallion.
- 2006 — Along with associate Raj Reddy, Townes was awarded the Vannevar Bush Award for Lifetime Contributions and Statesmanship to Science
- 2008 — On May 24 Townes received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Redlands.
- 2010 — SPIE Gold Medal
- 2011 —On May 14 Townes received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Texas A&M University.
- 2012 — awarded the Golden Goose Award for government-funded research with unexpected applications.
- 2012 — awarded the Nancy DeLoye Fitzroy and Roland V. Fitzroy Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Townes work was published widely in books and peer-reviewed journal articles, including:
- Gordon, J.; Zeiger, H.; Townes, Charles (1955). "The Maser—New Type of Microwave Amplifier, Frequency Standard, and Spectrometer". Physical Review 99 (4): 1264. Bibcode:1955PhRv...99.1264G. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.99.1264.
- Shimoda, K.; Wang, T.; Townes, Charles (1956). "Further Aspects of the Theory of the Maser". Physical Review 102 (5): 1308. Bibcode:1956PhRv..102.1308S. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.102.1308.
- Schawlow, Arthur; Townes, Charles (1958). "Infrared and Optical Masers". Physical Review 112 (6): 1940. Bibcode:1958PhRv..112.1940S. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.112.1940.
- Townes, Charles (1999). How the Laser Happened: Adventures Of a Scientist. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512268-8.
- Townes, Charles; Schawlow, Arthur (1955). Microwave Spectroscopy. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-065095-4.
- Townes, Charles (1995). Making Waves. American Institute of Physics Press. ISBN 978-1-56396-381-0.
- Boyd, Robert (2015). "Charles H. Townes (1915-2015) Laser co-inventor, astrophysicist and US presidential adviser". Nature 519 (7543): 292. Bibcode:2015Natur.519..292B. doi:10.1038/519292a. PMID 25788091.
- "Charles H. Townes — Biographical". Nobelprize.org. 2006. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- "Remembering Charles Townes". Furman University. 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2015-01-27.
- Bertolotti, Mario (2004). The History of the Laser. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-7503-0911-0.
- Bromberg, Joan (1991). The Laser in America, 1950–1970. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-585-36732-3.
- Chiao, Raymond, ed. (1996). Amazing Light: A Volume Dedicated To Charles Hard Townes On His 80th Birthday. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-94658-0.
- Chiao, Raymond, ed. (2005). Visions of Discovery: New Light on Physics, Cosmology, and Consciousness, A Volume Dedicated to Charles Hard Townes on his 90th Birthday. Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-521-88239-2.
- Haynie, Rachel (2014). First, You Explore: The Story of Young Charles Townes (Young Palmetto Books). University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-61117-343-7.
- Hecht, Jeff (2005). Beam: The Race to Make the Laser. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514210-5.
- Hecht, Jeff (1991). Laser Pioneers. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-336030-4.
- Taylor, Nick (2000). Laser: The Inventor, the Nobel Laureate, and the Thirty-Year Patent War. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-83515-0.
- Townes, Frances (2007). Misadventures of a Scientist's Wife. Regent Press. ISBN 978-1-58790-128-7.
- "Nobel laureate and laser inventor, Charles Hard Townes, dies at 99". Berkeley.edu. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
- Charles H. Townes's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
- Charles Townes — the Maser and the Laser, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
- "Notable South Carolinians- Dr. Charles Hard Townes | Indigo Blue". Indigobluesc.com. 1915-07-28. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
- Townes, Charles (1939). Concentration of the heavy isotope of carbon and measurement of its nuclear spin (PhD thesis). Caltech.
- author=Charles Townes|title="How the Maser Happened",|accessdate=1999|publisher=Oxford University Press
- "Charles H. Townes: The Light Fantastic", BusinessWeek, August 1, 2004
- Heinrich Hora; Edward Teller; George Hunter Miley (1 June 2005), Edward Teller Lectures: Lasers And Inertial Fusion Energy, Imperial College Press, pp. 3–4, ISBN 978-1-86094-468-0, retrieved 27 December 2012
- "Laser inventor Charles Townes dies". The Guardian. January 29, 2015.
- Chiao, R.; Garmire, E.; Townes, C. (1964). "Self-Trapping of Optical Beams". Physical Review Letters 13 (15): 479. Bibcode:1964PhRvL..13..479C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.479.
- Schawlow, A.; Townes, C. (1958). "Infrared and Optical Masers". Physical Review 112 (6): 1940. Bibcode:1958PhRv..112.1940S. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.112.1940.
- Autler, S.; Townes, C. (1955). "Stark Effect in Rapidly Varying Fields". Physical Review 100 (2): 703. Bibcode:1955PhRv..100..703A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.100.703.
- Danchi, W. C.; Bester, M.; Degiacomi, C. G.; Greenhill, L. J.; Townes, C. H. (1994). "Characteristics of dust shells around 13 late-type stars". The Astronomical Journal 107: 1469. Bibcode:1994AJ....107.1469D. doi:10.1086/116960.
- Harvard Gazette June 16, 2005 Laser's inventor predicts meeting of science, religion
- Henry, David. "Pioneer of James Bond's Laser, Dies at 99". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
- "Charles H. Townes Dies at 99; He Envisioned the Laser, Bringing It Into Daily Life". The New York Times. 2015-01-29. Retrieved 2015-01-29.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter T" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
- "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Richtmyer Memorial Award". American Association of Physics Teachers. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- "John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- Editor, ÖGV. (2015). Wilhelm Exner Medal. Austrian Trade Association. ÖGV. Austria.
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- Charles Townes Oral History part 1 Childhood, college, career overview, Recorded at IEEE History Center, August 1991, Retrieved May 1, 2015
- Charles Townes Oral History part 2 Studies at Cal Tech and work at Bell Labs on the eve of World War II, Recorded at IEEE History Center, September 1992, Retrieved May 1, 2015