Laser-“light amplified by stimulated emission of radiation” – Such a common word today, “laser”. I never knew it was short hand for a very complex concept that was once thought impossible! Charles Townes persevered in bringing about the reality of the laser. Perhaps his other strongly held belief – that science and religion are “quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge”, will also one day be shown to be not only possible, but quite real!
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 laser.
“Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina. 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 earned a PhD in 1939 from California Institute of Technology. A member of the technical staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories from 1933 to 1947, Dr. Townes worked extensively during World War II in designing radar bombing systems and has a number of patents in related technology. 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.
Townes 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 center of the Milky Way galaxy. Between 1966 and 1970, he was chairman of the NASA Science Advisory Committee for the Apollo lunar landing program.
In addition to the 1984 Nobel Prize, Townes, a member of the United Church of Christ, received the Templeton Prize for his efforts at reconciling the claims of science and religion. A practicing Christian, he always saw religious faith and scientific investigation as convergent paths to ultimate truth. He also received a number of other prizes as well as 27 honorary degrees from various universities. “Despite the commonly held cultural view that Christians are irrational and less than intelligent, this brief bio on Charles Townes proves otherwise. Throughout history, the “possibility” thinking of Christians (what is impossible for man is possible with God) has driven great discoveries of science and philosophy.
Adapted from Charles H. Townes – Biographical. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 31 Jan 2015.