Charles H. Townes
1999 Mendel Medal Recipient



Dr. Charles H. Townes, who received the Nobel Prize in 1964 for his role in the invention of the maser and the laser, is presently a Professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley, and engaged in a research in astrophysics. He is known for a variety of researches involving the interaction of electromagnetic waves and matter, and also as teacher and government advisor.

Born July 28, 1915 in Greenville, South Carolina, Dr. Townes graduated with highest honors from Furman University in 1935, earning a bachelor of science degree in physics and a bachelor of arts degree in modern languages. He completed a master's degree at Duke University and in 1939 received the Ph.D. degree at the California Institute of Technology. He was a staff member of the Bell Telephone Laboratories 1939-1947, Associate Professor and Professor at Columbia University 1948-1961, Vice President and Director of Research at the Institute for Defense Analysis 1959-1961, Provost and Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1961-1965, and became University Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1967.

Dr. Townes's principal scientific work is in microwave spectroscopy, nuclear and molecular structure, quantum electronics, radio astronomy, and infrared astronomy; he is presently most active in the latter two fields. He has the fundamental patent on masers, and with A.L.Schawlow, the basic patent on lasers. In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has received a number of awards and honors, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences and in the Royal Society of London, the National Academy of Sciences' Comstock Prize and the John J. Carty Medal, the Rumford Premium of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Stuart Ballentine Medal of the Franklin Institute (twice), and the C.E.K. Mees Medal of the Optical Society of America, and the Medal of Honor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Plyler Prize of the American Physical Society, NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Thomas Young Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics and the Physical Society (England), the Wilhelm Exner Award (Austria), the 1979 Niels Bohr International Gold Medal, membership in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, South Carolina Hall of Fame, Engineering and Science Hall of Fame, the National Medal of Science, as well as honorary degrees from twenty-five colleges and universities.

Mendel Medal Presentation Program, January 23, 1999. Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania.





Townes, Charles Hard, physics educator; b. Greenville, S.C., July 28, 1915; s. Henry Keith and Ellen Sumter (Hard) T.; m. Frances H. Brown, May 4, 1941; children: Linda Lewis, Ellen Screven, Carla Keith, Holly Robinson. B.A., B.S., Furman U., 1935; M.A., Duke U., 1937; PhD., Calif. Inst. Tech., 1939. Mem. tech. staff Bell Telephone Lab., 1939-47; assoc. prof. physics Columbia U., 1948-50, prof. physics, 1950-61; exec. dir. Columbia Radiation Lab., 1950-52, chmn. physics dept., 1952-55; provost and prof. physics MIT, 1961-66, Inst. prof., 1966-67; v.p., dir. research Inst. Def. Analyses, Washington, 1959-61; prof. physics U. Calif. Berkeley, 1967-86, 94, prof. physics emeritus, 1986-94, prof. grad. sch., 1994--; Guggenheim fellow, 1955-56; Fulbright lectr. U. Paris, 1955-56, U. Tokyo, 1956; dir. Enrico Fermi Internat. Sch. Physics, 1963; Richtmeyer lectr. Am. Phys. Soc., 1959; Scott lectr. U. Cambridge, 1963; Centennial lectr. U. Toronto, 1967; Lincoln lectr., 1972-73, Halley lectr., 1976, Krishnan lectr., 1992, Nishina lectr., 1992; Weinberg lectr. Oak Ridge (Tenn.) Nat. Lab., 1997, Rajiv Gandhi lectr., 1997. Henry Norris Russell lectr. Am. Astron. Soc., 1998; dir. Gen. Motors Corp., 1973-86, Perkin-Elmer Corp., 1966-85; mem. Pres.'s Sci. Adv. Com., 1966-69, vice chmn., 1967-69; chmn. sci. and tech. adv. com. for manned space flight NASA, 1964-70; mem. Pres.'s Com. on Sci. and Tech., 1976; rschr. on nuclear and molecular structure, quantum electronics, interstellar molecules, radio and infrared astrophysics. Author: (with A.L. Schawlow) Microwave Spectroscopy, 1955, Making Waves, 1996, How the Laser Happened. Adventures of a Scientist, 1999 (best book on sci. 1999 Am. Inst. Physics); author, co-editor; Quantum Electronics, 1960, Quantum Electronics and Coherent Light, 1964; editorial bd. Rev. Sci. Instruments, 1950-52, Phys. Rev., 1951-53, Jour. Molecular Spectroscopy, 1957-60, Procs. Nat. Acad. Scis., 1978-84, Can. Jour. Physics, 1995--; contbr. articles to sci. publs.; patentee masers and lasers. Trustee Calif. Inst. Tech., Carnegie Instn. of Washington, Grad. Theol. Union, Calif. Acad. Scis.; mem. corp. Woods Hole Oceanographic Instn. Decorated officier Légion d'Honneur (France); recipient numerous hon. degrees and awards including Nobel prize for physics, 1964; Stuart Ballantine medal Franklin Inst., 1959, 62; Thomas Young medal and prize Inst. Physics and Phys. Soc., Eng., 1963; Disting. Public Service medal NASA, 1969; Wilhelm Exner award Austria, 1970; Niels Bohr Internat. Gold medal, 1979; Nat. Sci. medal, 1982, Berkeley citation U. Calif., 1986; Common Wealth award, 1993, ADION medal Obs. Nice, 1995; Mendel award Villanova U; Frank Annunzio award Christopher Columbus Fellowship Found., 1999; Rabindranath Tagore Birth Centenary plaque Asiatic Soc., 1999; named to Nat. Inventors Hall of Fame, 1976, Engring. and Sci. Hall of Fame, 1983. Fellow IEEE (life, Medal of Honor 1967), Am. Phys. Soc. (pres. 1967, Plyler prize 1977), Optical Soc. Am. Astron. Soc., Am. Acad. Arts and Scis., Royal Soc. (fgn. mem.), Russian Acad. Scis. (fgn. mem., Lomonosov medal 2000), Pontifical Acad. Scis. Max-Planck Inst. for Physics and Astrophysics (fgn. mem.), N.Y. Acad. Scis. (hon. life); elected to NAE 1998 (founders award 2000). cht@sunspot.ssl.berkeley.edu. Office: U. Calif. Dept. Physics 366 Leconte #7200 Berkeley CA 94720-0001

Who's Who in America, 2002, 56th edition. New Providence, New Jersey. Marquis Who's Who, 2001, p.5339-5340.


Web Link:

Biography of Charles H. Townes
http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1964/townes-bio.html