Charles Hard Townes

Black and white photograph of Charles Townes

Charles Townes. Wikimedia Commons.

(1915 – 2015)  Charles H. Townes was born in Greenville, S. C., the son of Henry Keith Townes and Ellen (Hard) Townes. He graduated with a Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology.  He worked with Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York during World War II designing radar bombing systems and became an expert in the use of microwaves.  Towne continued studying the use of microwave spectroscopy to better examine molecular structure. His research led to the development of the first working maser, a device that amplifies electromagnetic waves, and the invention of the laser, which amplifies and directs light waves into parallel direct beams. Ultimately, it resulted in discoveries now in common use in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, computers and many other areas. Townes received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery.

Townes was married to Frances Brown and the couple had four daughters.  Charles Townes died at age 99 in California.