Charles Townes, Inventor of the Laser, Dies Aged 99

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Charles Townes, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist credited with the invention of the laser and its predecessor — the maser — died in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday.

Townes’ health had been rapidly deteriorating and he died on the way to the hospital, according to the University of California Berkeley, where he had taught physics since 1967.

Townes, who was 99, jointly won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the field of lasers, sharing it with two Russian scientists.

Born in Greenville, S.C., in 1915, Townes studied at Duke University before completing his PhD at Caltech in 1939. A stint at Bell Labs was followed by a faculty position at Columbia University, where he taught before moving to MIT in 1961 and finally to Berkeley six years later.

“Charlie Townes had an enormous impact on physics and society in general,” said Steven Boggs, professor and chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Physics. “His overwhelming dedication to science and personal commitment to remaining active in research was inspirational to all of us.”

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