How the Laser Happened

How the Laser Happened : Adventures of a Scientist

4.05 (17 ratings by Goodreads)
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In How the Laser Happened, Nobel laureate Charles Townes provides a highly personal look at some of the leading events in twentieth-century physics. Townes was inventor of the maser, of which the laser is one example; an originator of spectroscopy using microwaves; and a pioneer in the study of gas clouds in galaxies and around stars. Throughout his career he has also been deeply engaged with issues outside of academic research. He worked on applied research projects for Bell Labs; served on the board of directors for General Motors; and devoted extensive effort to advising the government on science, policy, and defense. This memoir traces his multifaceted career from its beginnings on the family farm in South Carolina. Spanning decades of ground-breaking research, the book provides a hands-on description of how working scientists and inventors get their ideas. It also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the scientific community, showing how scientists respond to new ideas and how they approach a variety of issues, from priority and patents to the social and political implications of their work. In addition, Townes touches on the sociology of science, uncovering some of the traditions and values that are invisible to an outsider. A towering and energetic figure, Townes has explored or pioneered most of the roles available to the modern scientist. In addition to fundamental research, he was actively involved in the practical uses of the laser and in the court cases to defend the patent rights. He was a founding member of the Jasons, an influential group of scientists that independently advises the government on defense policy, and he played an active part in scientific decisions and policies from the Truman through the Reagan administration. This lively memoir, packed with first-hand accounts and historical anecdotes, is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of science and an inspiring example for students considering scientific more

Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 154 x 232 x 12mm | 281.23g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 14 halftones, 3 line drawings
  • 0195153766
  • 9780195153767
  • 1,675,624

Review quote

It's rare that a scientist writes a book about his or her life that accurately reflects the highs and lows of scientific discovery. Such a book is How the Laser Happened by Nobel Laureate Charles Townes ... Townes did not invent the laser but, as a researcher, he certainly left his mark on twentieth century science. And the book certainly leaves the impression that Townes lived the life of a true scientist. Townes was the co-inventor of the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) with James Gordon, then a post-doctoral student at Columbia University ... But the book is not entirely concerned with the science of maser and laser development. Townes devotes an intriguing chapter to the various battles that were fought over the patents for the maser and the laser ... The book is subtitled, Adventures of a Scientist. Charles Townes' adventures make for a fascinating story of a true scientist. * Laser Focus * An engaging human story, intertwined with a first-hand account of some of the twentieth century's most significant inventions and discoveries. Fine reading for anyone interested in science, scientists, or the roles they play in our fast-changing world. * Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics and former Chief Scientist of Bell Labs * Filled with personal anecdotes that provide insight into an immensely original thinker and scientist of enormous energy and prolific output....[Includes] a fascinating account of the patent disputes surrounding the maser and laser....[Provides] an inspiring case history of how an outstanding physicist got started and went on to do great science. * Steven Chu, cowinner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics, in Physics Today * [Townes's] ability to blend past achievements with the present brings a freshness of view in which his obvious excitement with some very recent breakthroughs in science and technology shines through very clearly ... I would recommend the reading of this autobiographical account to non-scientists as well as budding or established scientists. * Wilson Sibbett CBE FRS, University of St Andrews - The Royal Society Notes and Records *show more

About Charles H. Townes

Charles Townes is one of the leading figures in twentieth-century physics, intentor of the maser, co-inventor of the laser, and a pioneer in microwave spectroscopy for molecular and nuclear physics and in the use of radio and infrared spectroscopic techniques for astronomy. A Nobel laureate, Townes was also one of the first academic scientists to accept a full-time position advising the Executive Branch during the Cold War, and was founder of the Jasons, an influential group of scientists independently advising the government. He also served on the Board of General more

Table of contents

1. The Light That Shines Straight ; 2. Physics, Furman, Molecules, and Me ; 3. Bell Labs and Radar, a (Fortunate) Detour from Physics ; 4. Columbia to Franklin Park and Beyond ; 5. Maser Excitement-And a Time for Reflection ; 6. From Maser to Laser ; 7. The Patent Game ; 8. On Moon Dust, and Other Science Advice ; 9. The Rains of Orionshow more

Rating details

17 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 35% (6)
4 41% (7)
3 18% (3)
2 6% (1)
1 0% (0)
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