June 21, 2010
The Laser Institute of America (LIA), Orlando, Fla., 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®) in Anaheim, Calif.
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 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, S.C., 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."
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.
LIA is a professional society for laser applications and safety serving the industrial, educational, medical, research, and government communities throughout the world since 1968.