How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist

Paperback | February 15, 2002

byCharles H. Townes

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In How the Laser Happened, Nobel laureate Charles Townes provides a highly personal look at some of the leading events in twentieth-century physics. Townes was inventor of the maser, of which the laser is one example; an originator of spectroscopy using microwaves; and a pioneer in the studyof gas clouds in galaxies and around stars. Throughout his career he has also been deeply engaged with issues outside of academic research. He worked on applied research projects for Bell Labs; served on the board of directors for General Motors; and devoted extensive effort to advising thegovernment on science, policy, and defense. This memoir traces his multifaceted career from its beginnings on the family farm in South Carolina. Spanning decades of ground-breaking research, the book provides a hands-on description of how working scientists and inventors get their ideas. It also gives a behind-the-scenes look at thescientific community, showing how scientists respond to new ideas and how they approach a variety of issues, from priority and patents to the social and political implications of their work. In addition, Townes touches on the sociology of science, uncovering some of the traditions and values thatare invisible to an outsider. A towering and energetic figure, Townes has explored or pioneered most of the roles available to the modern scientist. In addition to fundamental research, he was actively involved in the practical uses of the laser and in the court cases to defend the patent rights. He was a founding member of theJasons, an influential group of scientists that independently advises the government on defense policy, and he played an active part in scientific decisions and policies from the Truman through the Reagan administration. This lively memoir, packed with first-hand accounts and historical anecdotes,is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of science and an inspiring example for students considering scientific careers.

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In How the Laser Happened, Nobel laureate Charles Townes provides a highly personal look at some of the leading events in twentieth-century physics. Townes was inventor of the maser, of which the laser is one example; an originator of spectroscopy using microwaves; and a pioneer in the studyof gas clouds in galaxies and around stars. T...

Charles Townes is one of the leading figures in twentieth-century physics, intentor of the maser, co-inventor of the laser, and a pioneer in microwave spectroscopy for molecular and nuclear physics and in the use of radio and infrared spectroscopic techniques for astronomy. A Nobel laureate, Townes was also one of the first academic s...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 0.71 inPublished:February 15, 2002Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195153766

ISBN - 13:9780195153767

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Table of Contents

1. The Light That Shines Straight2. Physics, Furman, Molecules, and Me3. Bell Labs and Radar, a (Fortunate) Detour from Physics4. Columbia to Franklin Park and Beyond5. Maser Excitement--And Time for Reflection6. From Maser to Laser7. The Patent Game8. On Moon Dust, and Other Science Advice9. The Rains of Orion10. Glances Both Backward and ForwardIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In this delightful book, Nobel Laureate Charles Townes provides a highly personal look at some of the leading events in twentieth century physics. Townes was the co-inventor of the maser, the forerunner of the laser, and a pioneer of the study of gas clouds in inter-stellar space wherenatural masers and lasers were discovered. These memoirs trace his career from the beginnings on the family farm in South Carolina to his Nobel prize and beyond. There is fascinating material on Townes' interaction with other scientists and scientific managers and also about his long associationwith Bell Laboratories. We also learn about the trials and tribulations about getting a patent and the subsequent litigation that seems almost inevitable when large sums of money are at stake. This is a fascinating book and so well written that this reviewer read it from cover to cover in only twosittings."--Annals of Nuclear Energy