WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Optical Society expresses its condolences at the loss of Charles Townes, OSA Fellow and recipient of the Frederic Ives Medal (1996). Charles was a luminary in the field of optics and photonics and was highly regarded by colleagues and the numerous students he mentored. He died on 27 January 2015 at the age of 99.
“This loss marks the passing of an era,” said OSA 2014 President Philip Bucksbaum. “For more than 60 years Charlie Townes was a towering influence in American physics. He was a wonderful physicist and a very generous person.”
Charles Hard Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on July 28, 1915. He attended Furman University in Greenville, where he received a B.S. in physics and a B.A. in Modern Languages in 1935. Physics had fascinated Townes since his first course in the subject during his sophomore year in college because of its "beautifully logical structure". Townes completed his M.A. in physics at Duke University in 1936, and then entered graduate school at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in 1939 with a thesis on isotope separation and nuclear spins.
Interest in Townes’ research has garnered fellowships around the globe and travels to France, Japan, Italy, Canada, Germany, and India. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Townes has received the Templeton Prize, for contributions to the understanding of religion, and a number of other prizes as well as 27 honorary degrees from various universities.
“Townes was 99 years young,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan. “He was a bright light and significant pioneer in our field. On behalf of the OSA community, I express our warmest sympathies to Charles' family and colleagues.”
Townes has served on a number of scientific committees advising governmental agencies and has been active in professional societies. This includes being a member, and vice chairman, of the Science Advisory Committee to the President of the U.S., Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the first human landing on the moon, and chairman of the Defense Department’s Committee on the MX missile. He also served on the boards of General Motors and of the Perkins Elmer Corporations.
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and entrepreneurs who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. OSA is a founding partner of the National Photonics Initiative and the 2015 International Year of Light. For more information, visit www.osa.org.