Charles Townes to be honored with the first LIA Lifetime Achievement Award

Orlando, FL--The Laser Institute of America (LIA) will present its first Lifetime Achievement Award to laser pioneer Dr. Charles Townes at the 29th International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO) to be held September 26-30, 2010 in Anaheim, CA.

Townes, 94, won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1964 "for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle,” according to the Nobel committee. The then-provost and professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( shared the award with Nicolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov of the USSR. Their work was among the critical early steps in the development of the laser, which is 50 years old this year.

“I am very privileged to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award,” Townes said. “I feel my life has been very privileged by the opportunity to do research, discover new things, and particularly by the discovery of how a laser could be made. I am also delighted by the many contributions that colleagues have made in development of the laser and further associated discoveries. Many thanks for this honor, and more importantly many thanks for the many contributions other scientists and engineers have made towards the exciting growth of optics.”

Born in Greenville, SC on July 28, 1915, Townes--professor emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley, since 1986--shares a patent for the laser with his late brother-in-law and fellow Nobel winner Arthur L. Schawlow. The pair collaborated on their research at Columbia University and Bell Labs in New York City and together wrote the seminal book “Microwave Spectroscopy” in 1955 and the 1958 paper “Infrared and Optical Masers.” During World War II, Townes had designed radar-bombing systems at Bell and began applying those principles to spectroscopy. LIA honored Schawlow, who married Townes’ sister, Aurelia, in 1951, with an award in 1982 that now bears his name.

“I invented (the maser) back in 1951, and I worked and worked thinking about how to get to shorter wavelengths,” Townes recalled in a 2008 interview. “One morning, sitting on a park bench … I suddenly had the right idea, namely to use molecules and atoms and how to use them. One of my students, Jim Gordon, helped make the first one, which we called the maser because we wanted to make it work first in the microwave region, which seemed the easiest thing to do. I wrote a patent then that covered all wavelengths.” Years later, in pursuing shorter wavelengths, Townes said he “sat down (and) wrote some equations” and realized he could get down to light wavelengths. Shortly thereafter he began collaborating with Schawlow.

Townes’ award will consist of a special citation and a cash prize, and he will become a fellow and life member of LIA. He will make a special address during the awards luncheon Sept. 29 at ICALEO. He attended the conference once before, in 2000. These days, he is using lasers for astronomy. “We now know that natural masers and natural laser are occurring in extraterrestrial objects,” he said in 2008. “They’ve been there for a long time. Had we just looked at them earlier … that would have been the invention of the laser and the maser perhaps.”

SOURCE: LIA press release from June 8, 2010.

--Posted by Gail Overton;;

Most Popular Articles


Opportunities in the Mid-IR

The technology for exploiting the mid-IR is developing rapidly:  it includes quantum-cascade lasers and other sources, spectroscopic instruments of many...

Fiber Optic Sensors – Fundamentals, Principles and Applications

In this webcast, sponsored by Nufern, we focus on optical fiber sensing technology.  Fundamental concepts will be presented first, followed by the under...

Infinite Possibilities – Easily Combining Scanner and Servo Motion

High precision motion control applications such as laser micromachining, 2-photon polymerization, glass panel and film patterning, and additive manufacturing...

Solutions in Search of Problems: What Spectroscopy Can Do for You

Spectroscopy is so pervasive that most of us take it for granted. We use it for routine laboratory and test measurements without appreciating how those same ...

Technical Digests

HIGH-ENERGY LASER COATINGS: Eliminating laser damage proactively

High-power and high-energy thin-film antireflection coatings for laser optics require careful des...
Sponsored by

LIBS -- spectroscopy for remote identification of materials

Laser-induced-breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) uses a pulsed laser to vaporize a small sample of a s...
Sponsored by

Laser Tools for Materials Processing

Laser materials processing requires not only the appropriate industrial laser system, but also a ...
Sponsored by

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.



Applications include LIDAR and LADAR, range finding and spectroscopy

VPFL- ISP- 30000

Applications include marking, material processing, micromachining
and spectroscopy


Marking material processing micromachining welding spectroscopy


Integrated Optics Inc

Manufactures micro lasers for spectroscopy, imaging, material processing and range find...


Manufactures automated scanning probe microscopes, integrated confocal Raman/AFM/SNOM (...

RGB Lasersysteme GmbH

Designs and manufactures highly integrated laser and spectroscopy systems for scientifi...

Social Activity

Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS