Townes, Charles Hard

Townes, Charles Hard, 1915–2015, American physicist and educator, b. Greenville, S.C. He was educated at Furman Univ., Duke, and the California Institute of Technology (Ph.D., 1939), was on the technical staff of the Bell Telephone Laboratories (1939–48), where he worked on radar and navigational devices, and taught at Columbia (1948–59). After serving as vice president and director of research of the Institute for Defense Analyses, Washington, D.C., he was provost of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1961–66) and then a professor at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. Townes is known for his work on the theory and application of the maser, on which he obtained the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics connected with both maser and laser devices. He shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with N. G. Basov and A. M. Prokhorov for contributions to this field. He also used the maser to develop an atomic clock (1955), and later (1985) he led a research team that discovered evidence for a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

See his memoirs, memoirs, Making Waves (1995) and How the Laser Happened (1999).

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