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Charles H. Townes, inventor of the laser and a professor of the graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, has been named the recipient of the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) 2000 Founders Award. He will receive the award on October 22, during the NAE's Annual Meeting.
Townes developed the path-breaking maser-laser principle, which is the foundation for modern electronics and communication technology. He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the field of quantum electronics, related to his invention and demonstration of microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, known as the maser. The discovery led to the subsequent invention of the laser with his brother-in-law Arthur Schawlow.
The maser has had important applications in astronomy, communications, and precise timing. But the laser is still more widely known and used in medicine, cutting and welding, precision measurements, communications, information storage, and many other industrial and scientific applications.
The NAE established the award in 1965 to recognize an Academy member's life-long contribution to engineering and whose accomplishments had benefit to the people of the United States. The award consists of a gold medallion, a $2,500 cash award, and a hand-scribed certificate.