Charles Hard Townes


In 1954 Charles Hard Townes built the first maser with H. J. Zeiger and James P. Gordon at Columbia University. The maser is microwave (low frequency radiation) amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Townes moved on to hypothesize on creating very concentrated beams of light called lasers, light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. He wrote an article for Physical Review entitled 'Infrared and Optical Masers' with Arthur Schawlow. This paper was published in 1958 and became the first theoretical description of a laser. Townes' work launched a competition to build the first working laser. Theodore Maiman succeeded in 1960.

Charles Hard Townes worked as vice president and director of research at the Institute for Defence Analysis in Washington, D.C. for several years. He then taught as a renowned professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley. In 1964 Charles Hard Townes won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work leading to the development of the maser. Townes continues to research astrophysics even after his retirement from teaching in 1986.