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Charles Townes


You've heard of the laser? How about the maser? One man and a flower
combined to bring us those breakthroughs.

Scientific minds are different from others. Charles Hard Townes was a Christian who saw no
competition between religion and science, believing that they are almost "parallel, more similar than most people think, and at some point must converge."

A full-bloomed azalea inspired him to conceive a new way to apply the laws of
physics to create intense, precise beams of coherent radiation. He coined the term maser for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and when the same principle was applied to higher frequencies, the term laser was used.

In 1964, he was awarded
the Nobel Prize for Physics (along with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov). Lasers and masers, used by his team to measure space, identified the size of the black hole at the center of our own galaxy.

He married Frances H. Brown in 1941 and they had four daughters.

Townes died at 99 in Oakland on January 27, 2015. He knew where he was going.


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