By Charles H. Townes
In How the Laser Happened, Nobel laureate Charles Townes presents a hugely own examine many of the major occasions in twentieth-century physics. Townes was once inventor of the maser, of which the laser is one instance; an originator of spectroscopy utilizing microwaves; and a pioneer within the learn of gasoline clouds in galaxies and round stars. all through his profession he has additionally been deeply engaged with concerns outdoors of educational study. He labored on utilized learn initiatives for Bell Labs; served at the board of administrators for normal vehicles; and dedicated broad attempt to advising the govt. on technology, coverage, and defense.
This memoir strains his multifaceted occupation from its beginnings at the kin farm in South Carolina. Spanning many years of ground-breaking study, the publication offers a hands-on description of ways operating scientists and inventors get their rules. It additionally provides a behind-the-scenes examine the medical group, displaying how scientists reply to new principles and the way they technique various concerns, from precedence and patents to the social and political implications in their paintings. furthermore, Townes touches at the sociology of technology, uncovering many of the traditions and values which are invisible to an interloper.
A towering and vigorous determine, Townes has explored or pioneered lots of the roles on hand to the fashionable scientist. as well as primary examine, he used to be actively excited about the sensible makes use of of the laser and within the lawsuits to safeguard the patent rights. He used to be a founding member of the Jasons, an influential workforce of scientists that independently advises the govt on security coverage, and he performed an lively half in medical judgements and regulations from the Truman during the Reagan management. This full of life memoir, choked with first-hand money owed and old anecdotes, is a useful source for somebody attracted to the heritage of technological know-how and an inspiring instance for college students contemplating clinical careers
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Additional resources for How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist
My combined lab and office was a room in the basement of the physics building, a large and solid stucco-finished structure, built after Millikan arrived from Chicago, and part of the main Caltech quadrangle. It was next to Smythe’s office, close to the machine shop, and already filled, when I got there, with a rather elaborate apparatus involving about 30 glass vacuum pumps filled with mercury. My thesis was on the separation of stable isotopes of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, and a determination of the nuclear spins of some of their rarer isotopes.
I wanted to do what I felt was interesting and part of the funda mental process of discovery, and if I couldn’t do it at Bell, then I would eventually have to go somewhere else. In 1946 I wrote a report to Bell Labs giving all my reasons for pursu ing microwave spectroscopy. The first paragraph read: Microwave radio has now been extended to such short wave lengths that it overlaps a region rich in molecular resonances, where quantum mechanical theory and spectroscopic techniques can pro vide aids to radio engineering.
I re call well some fascinating articles in them that reviewed the field of nuclear physics, the hottest field of the time, written by a man named Karl Darrow of the Bell Telephone Labs. ) I also ran across a fascinating short description of Karl Jansky’s discovery in 1932 of radio waves from space, something which intrigued me imme diately. It was my first brush with radio astronomy, a field that has played a large role in my career—and which has important intersections with maser and laser physics.