Charles Hard Townes, the man who invented the laser, died Tuesday at the age of 99. He died while en route to the hospital.
CBS News reports that he had been in failing health. The report quotes his colleague, astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, as having said that his passing marked “the end of an era” as Townes “was one of the most important experimental physicists of the last century.”
Townes, professor emeritus of physics at U.C. Berkeley, shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the laser with Russian scientists Aleksandr M. Prokhorov and Nicolai G. Basoc, as they’d independently developed their idea for a maser.
In 1959, the recently deceased was appointed directory of research for the U.S. Institute of Defense Analysis.
In 1985, he developed a method to view infrared heat in outer-space which led to the discovery of the first evidence of the existence of a black hole located in the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Robert Sanders, U.C. Berkeley media relations, indicated in a press release on the university’s News Center portion of the school’s website that Townes visited the campus daily up until last year. The press release quoted physics professor Stuart Bale as having said that “Charlie was a cornerstone of the Space Sciences Laboratory” for nearly 50 years and that he was “truly inspiring” and a “nice guy” who would be missed.
“Charlie was a cornerstone of the Space Sciences Laboratory for almost 50 years (…) He trained a great number of excellent students in experimental astrophysics and pioneered a program to develop interferometry at short wavelengths. He was a truly inspiring man and a nice guy. We’ll miss him.”
In the Spring of 1951, at the age of 35, Townes was sitting on a park bench in Washington, D.C., when he was suddenly struck with a solution on how to create a pure beam of short-wavelength, high-frequency light. His revelation on that park bench eventually led to the first laser.
Without the invent of the laser, we wouldn’t have a news report on Inquisitr like this one about a UFO shooting a laser near the International Space Station.
Today, more than a dozen Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work which involved lasers, as lasers are now used in medicine, entertainment, science, and telecommunication.
Townes is survived by his wife, Frances Hildreth Townes, four daughters, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
Upon accepting the Templeton Prize in 2005, he indicated in a written statement that science and religion have their similarities and that the two should “interact and enlighten” one another.
“My own view is that, while science and religion may seem different, they have many similarities, and should interact and enlighten each other.”
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[Image via Wikipedia]