Charles H. Townes, Ph.D., 1999 Annunzio Award

Written by on July 10, 1999 in 1999, Researcher, The Annunzio STEM Leadership Award

Charles Townes

Charles H. Townes, Ph.D.

Professor in the Graduate School
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Dr. Townes was the second recipient of the $100,000 Frank Annunzio Award in October 1999 for his research on the microwave spectra of molecules and the ultimate invention of the laser.

In the 1940s, microwave oscillators involved klystrons and magnetrons which could not produce wavelengths shorter than a few millimeters. Dr. Townes was eager to find an oscillator which could produce much shorter waves in order to extend his spectroscopic studies.

In 1951, Dr. Townes came up with the idea to stimulate a molecule or atom to give up energy, thus increasing the radiation intensity. This led to the invention of the MASER (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). In 1957, Dr. Townes perfected the procedure to produce infrared and visible radiation, or the LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission for radiation).

Lasers have become important surgeon’s tools, are used in manufacturing, in telecommunications and in reading and writing computer disks, among other uses.

Dr. Townes received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 for his advances in the field of quantum electronics, and he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976.

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is honored to have had the assistance of the following distinguished individuals serving on the Frank Annunzio Awards Evaluation Committee:

Rita Dove, Ph.D. – Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Bob Edwards – Host, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.
Alice Stone Ilchman, Ph.D. – President of Sarah Lawrence College and Chair of the Board, Rockefeller Foundation, Bronxville, NY
Reeve Lindbergh – President, Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, Minneapolis, MN
Juan Mestas, Ph.D. – Deputy Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, D.C.
Michael Ray, Ph.D. – Professor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Ronald J. Versic, Ph.D. – President, Ronald T. Dodge Company, Dayton, OH
Kenneth R. Williams – Chairman of the Board, National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, Miami, FL
Jonathan Woodward, Ph.D. – Senior Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN (Dr. Woodward received the 1997 Christopher Columbus Foundation Award)


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