Charles Townes, who received a Nobel Prize for his role in the invention of the maser and the laser, first worked as a consultant in the field of solid-state masers for Bell Labs in 1956 after conceiving the idea of the maser in 1951. In 1957 he began working with Arthur Schawlow on a laser project that would operate at wavelengths a thousand times shorter than the maser. He worked with a colleague at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ali Javan, experimenting with some equipment that tested the theory of relativity using rotating lasers.
In 1954 Charles Townes presented his idea of the MASER, a Microwave Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. This invention has made great impact in radar, communications, astronomy, navigation, surgery, atomic clocks and industry.
For all his hard work and achievement, Townes received a patent for his invention of the laser in 1960 and also shared the Nobel Prize in 1964 with Aleksandr Prokhorov and Nikolai Basov. He later became an Institute Professor at MIT in 1966 and then a Professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkley the following year. Almost ten years later he was honored as Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at the University of California at Berkley.
Charles Townes received a B.A. and a B.S. from Furman University in 1935 and received an M.A. from Duke University in 1937. He then went to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology where he achieved his Ph.D. degree in 1939