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Laser pioneer reflects on making Einstein’s idea real

Q & A with Charles Townes

12:22pm, April 23, 2010

The laser celebrates its 50th birthday this month. Charles Townes shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his role in the laser’s invention and at age 94 remains active in research at the University of California, Berkeley. Townes spoke about his life in science and the events leading up to the development of the maser — the laser’s microwave cousin — and of the laser itself with Science News reporter Ron Cowen.

In what way did your experience growing up foster your interest in science?

It had a very big influence. We lived on a small farm in Greenville, S.C., and we had to do our own chores and make things work and that was a hands-on experience that [later] was quite important for experimental physics. I was interested in anything and everything, especially n

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