Charles H. Townes, former MIT provost and Institute Professor, will give the Ford/Nobel Laureate Lecture in physics in Huntington Hall (Rm 10-250) at 7pm on Monday, April 23. His topic is "The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy."
Professor Townes received the Nobel Prize in 1964 "for fundamental work in quantum electronics which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle." The maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) works on the same principle as a laser and emits coherent microwave radiation.
Professor Townes is presently a professor engaged in astrophysics research at the University of California at Berkeley. He is known for research involving the interaction of electromagnetic waves and matter, and also as a teacher and government advisor.
From 1959-61, he was vice president and director of research at the Institute for Defense Analysis. He was provost and Institute Professor at MIT from 1961-65.
Professor Townes's principal scientific work is in microwave spectroscopy, nuclear and molecular structure, quantum electronics, radio astronomy and infrared astronomy. He holds the original patent for the maser, and (with Arthur Schawlow), the original laser patent.
At UC-Berkeley, Professor Townes returned to full-time research and teaching and pursued new interests in astrophysics. His work there in radio astronomy resulted in the first detection of polyatomic molecules in interstellar clouds and the use of molecular spectra to characterize these dark clouds, now an important astronomical field.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Dr. Townes received the 1982 National Medal of Science.
The lecture is part of a collaboration between the Ford Motor Co. and MIT.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.