NEWS RELEASE, 10/14/99

UC Berkeley physics professor wins $100,000 award from the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation

By Public Affairs

Washington, D.C.-- The second annual $100,000 Frank Annunzio Award will be presented by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation to Charles Hard Townes, PhD, inventor of the laser. Townes is a physicist and a professor in the graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.

The laser was developed out of Townes' microwave work on molecules at Bell Telephone Labs in the early 1950s. Townes was trying to produce a wavelength shorter that a few millimeters in order to extend his spectroscopic studies. The concept of how to accomplish this came to Townes early one morning in 1951 while sitting on a park bench. He envisioned using radiation to stimulate a molecule or atom to give up energy, thus increasing the radiation intensity. This was the invention of the maser, for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation - the basic idea behind the laser, which uses light amplification.

"It is a pleasure for the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation to be able to honor Dr. Townes for his work in the field of physics, and particularly the development of the laser. The laser is one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century," said Rosalyn B. Queen, chair of the Columbus Foundation.

"Laser technology is used in diverse applications from surgeons conducting delicate operations, to computers, compact discs, grocery store scanners, to the field of telecommunications. Future benefits of the laser have yet to be discovered."

Queen will present the award to Townes at the National Italian American Foundation's Awards Gala on Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Washington Hilton and Towers in Washington, D. C.

"I am very honored and deeply appreciative of receiving the Frank Annunzio Award. I also want to recognize the many other scientists and engineers who have contributed to the development of the laser and expanded its potential," said Townes.

The award is presented to a living American whose innovative thinking has had a significant and beneficial impact on society. In addition to the foundation's board of trustees, an illustrious panel of evaluators helped select Townes from nominations received representing a wide spectrum of creative fields. Evaluators included poet Rita Dove; Bob Edwards, host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition;" Alice Stone Ilchman, chair of the Rockefeller Foundation; Reeve Lindbergh, president of the Lindbergh Foundation; Juan Mestas of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Michael Ray, a professor at Stanford University; Ronald Versic, president of the Ronald T. Dodge Company; Kenneth Williams, chairman of the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts; and Jonathan Woodward, a senior research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The Frank Annunzio Award is named for the Honorable Frank Annunzio, who served as a member of Congress from the State of Illinois for 28 years and was the visionary behind the establishment of the Columbus Foundation.

The foundation is an independent federal government agency established by Congress to encourage and support research, study and labor designed to produce new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind. The foundation, based in Arlington, Va., has developed a three-tiered awards program that recognizes discoveries of the past, present and future which sustain the visionary spirit and pioneering heritage of Christopher Columbus.


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