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Charles H. Townes

Physics professor Charles H. Townes was recently honored by two national scientific organizations. In January, he received the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship from the American Astronomical Society, and in February he was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

The American Astronomical Society announced his prestigious lectureship during its annual meeting Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. The citation for the award read: “Dr. Townes pioneered the new field of the physics and chemistry of the dense interstellar medium, including the discovery of stable polyatonomic molecules by their microwave emission. He led the development of high-spectral-resolution astronomical spectroscopy in the far infrared and introduced the uses of Michelson interferometry in the mid-infrared to achieve very high angular resolution.”

Townes will present the Russell Lecture at the society’s meeting in Austin, Texas, in January 1999.

Election to membership in the National Academy of Engineering is the highest professional honor for an American engineer. Townes was elected during the academy’s Feb. 13 meeting in Washington, D.C. He was elected because of his significant contributions to the engineering community through his studies of the maser-laser principle, which spawned a new industry.

Townes, who joined the physics department in 1967, has received nearly 50 major awards including the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for conceiving the idea of the maser and concepts leading to the creation of the laser. He also received the National Medal of Science, the IEEE Medal of Honor and election to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Townes is currently involved in astrophysics research, specifically infrared interferometry to study young stars still imbedded in the dust clouds from which they formed.

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