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“T” is for Townes, Charles Hard (1915-2015)

“T” is for Townes, Charles Hard (1915-2015). Physicist, Nobel laureate. A native of Greenville, Townes graduated from Furman and did graduate work at Duke and the California Institute of Technology—where he received his doctorate. His principal scientific work was in microwave spectroscopy, nuclear and molecular structure, quantum electronics, radio astronomy, and infrared astronomy. He held the original patents for the maser and taser. Townes conceived the idea of the “maser” (an acronym for “microwave amplification by simulated emission of radiation”) in 1951. In 1955 he and a co-worker suggested that masers could be made to function in the optical and infrared region. They dubbed these optical and infrared masers “lasers” (“light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”). Charles Hard Townes’s pioneering work with masers and lasers earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.