OSA | Living History

Charles Hard Townes with the maser, the laser’s forerunner, in 1955.

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Charles Townes

During the 1950s, Charles Hard Townes researched molecular microwave amplification.

This work was the basis for laser development and won Townes a Nobel Prize in Physics. Townes applied his creative genius to advance radio astronomy and infrared astronomy. Using lasers, he detected the first complex molecules in interstellar space and measured the mass of a black hole. (Photo: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection)

(Courtesy of AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection)