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Charles Hard Townes
Charles Townes Nobel.jpg
Born (1915-07-28) July 28, 1915 (age 98)
Greenville, South Carolina
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Physics
Institutions Berkeley
Bell Labs
Institute for Defense Analyses
University Of Michigan
Alma mater Furman University (B.S. & B.A.)
Duke University (M.A.)
Caltech (Ph.D.)
Doctoral advisor William Smythe
Doctoral students Ali Javan
James P. Gordon
Robert Boyd
Raymond Y. Chiao
Known for Inventing the Maser
Notable awards Comstock Prize in Physics (1958)
Young Medal and Prize (1963)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1964)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1967)
National Medal of Science (1982)
Lomonosov Gold Medal (2000)
Vannevar Bush Award (2006)
SPIE Gold Medal (2010)

Charles Hard Townes (born July 28, 1915) is an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist and educator. Townes is 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.

Early life[edit]

Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina, the son of Ellen Hard and Henry Keith Townes, an attorney.[1] He earned his B.S./B.A. at Furman University.


Theorists like Niels Bohr and John von Neumann doubted that it was possible to create such a thing as a maser.[2] 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!".[3]

Science and religion[edit]

A member of the United Church of Christ, Townes considers that "science and religion [are] quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge".[4]


Townes (right) receiving the 2006 Vannevar Bush Award

Townes has been widely recognized for his scientific work and leadership.


  • Between 1966 and 1970 he was chairman of the NASA Science Advisory Committee for the Apollo lunar landing program.

Books and publications[edit]


Journal articles[edit]


  • Townes, Charles (1999). How the Laser Happened: Adventures Of a Scientist. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195122688. 
  • Townes, Charles; Schawlow, Arthur (1955). Microwave Spectroscopy. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780070650954. 
  • Townes, Charles (1995). Making Waves. American Institute of Physics Press. ISBN 9781563963810. 


  • Bertolotti, Mario (2004). The History of the Laser. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780750309110. 
  • Bromberg, Joan (1991). The Laser in America, 1950-1970. MIT Press. ISBN 9780585367323. 
  • Chiao, Raymond, ed. (1996). Amazing Light: A Volume Dedicated To Charles Hard Townes On His 80th Birthday. Springer. ISBN 9780387946580. 
  • 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 9780521882392. 
  • Hecht, Jeff (2005). Beam: The Race to Make the Laser. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195142105. 
  • Hecht, Jeff (1991). Laser Pioneers. Academic Press. ISBN 9780123360304. 
  • Taylor, Nick (2000). Laser: The Inventor, the Nobel Laureate, and the Thirty-Year Patent War. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684835150. 
  • Townes, Frances (2007). Misadventures of a Scientist's Wife. Regent Press. ISBN 9781587901287. 

See also[edit]

The Japanese FM Towns computer and game console is named in his honour.


  1. ^ "Notable South Carolinians- Dr. Charles Hard Townes | Indigo Blue". Indigobluesc.com. 1915-07-28. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  2. ^ "Charles H. Townes: The Light Fantastic", Businessweek, August 1, 2004 
  3. ^ 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 
  4. ^ Harvard Gazette June 16, 2005 Laser's inventor predicts meeting of science, religion
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter T". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hard_Townes — Please support Wikipedia.
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