Last week we attended the ASLMS (American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery) meeting in Phoenix. One of the highlights of the meeting, besides celebrating the 50th anniversary of the operation of the laser, was the Special Recognition Award given to Dr. Charles Townes, an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist and educator. We were excited to see this award presented, as Townes is known worldwide as the “Father of Lasers,” having developed laser technology to the benefit of millions, both in military and medical uses.
Townes, born in 1915 in South Carolina, graduated summa cum laude from Furman University at the tender age of 19. He completed a master’s degree in physics at Duke and a PhD from Cal Tech with a thesis about isotope separation and nuclear spins. Keep in mind that this was back in 1939, when these technologies were in their infancy. As an early member of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, his work in radar bombing systems and microwave technology, which led to his appointment to the faculty at Columbia University, led to uses of ammonia gas in masers (microwave amplification through radiation), which ultimately produced laser technologies. He and his research assistants were the first to detect complex molecules in the galaxy, as well as the measurement of the mass in the black hole in our galaxy’s center. With the assistance of Arthur Schawlow, he wrote Microwave Spectroscopy, which was published in 1955. During his tenure at Bell Labs, Dr. Townes was asked to help with the development of a radar system for WWII aircraft. Although Dr. Townes did not serve in the military, he and his team contributed to the war efforts by creating more accurate and precise radar systems, though none of them were ever mass-produced by the military. Some of the new systems developed were used as prototypes in the early B-52 bombers.
Dr. Townes went on to become the VP and Director of Research for Washington DC-based Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit group that advised the government. After 2 years in that position, he became Provost and Professor of Physics at MIT, specializing in research of quantum electronics and astronomy. In 1967, he became a professor at University of California, on the Berkeley campus.
We'll be posting more details from the event later this week! Don't miss our upcoming info about the ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) conference this weekend!