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How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist

How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist [Kindle Edition]

Charles H. Townes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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[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 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 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 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

Product Description

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 careers.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 836 KB
  • Print Length: 212 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195153766
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (17 Mar 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052IQKB8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #720,493 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit Dull 11 Oct 2002
By "talba"
I was slightly dissapointed with this text. It is said that scientists are not the best of writers, and perhaps this is another example. The story is, basically, rather dull. Though having worked on the laser myself, I can vouch that the science is anything but.
This is a slim, neat and tidy but uninspiring tome. Townes does not really weave together an entertaining or even very informing text. He keeps it short and simple. But maybe he always meant to and the grandiose title is misleading. This is more of an autobiographical sketch than a history of science and technology.
The fight over the patents for the laser is well told, from his point of view. And Townes tells us a bit about himself and his philosophy. He goes some way to defend his record of cosy relations with the military. He portrays himself as a patriot who did the right thing, as far as he is concerned and asserts, repeatedly, that the military funding he received in no way affected his choice of work.
He is less convincing when addressing the larger issue of wether a scientist's "patriotism" should be a larger picture - if the scientist should owe alleigance to humanity and not to one nation state or another. Although the laser was never developed with weaponry in mind, Townes did go on later to advise and work on specifically military projects. He is obviously happy to have developed a system that helped US forces escape total defeat at Khe-San in Vietnam. Then again, it is tempting to think that by developing such systems in the first place, scientists do encourage politicians and military commanders to indulge in adventures during which lots of people (if even only on the "other side") are slaughtered.
All in all, a readable text written by an intelligent man who made a significant contribution to human civilisation and will be remembered as such.
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This books gives a lively picture of the mentality of the (post)- 2WWar physical research at California and Columbia. Well written and hugely informative to somebody new to this specific area of physics.
Dr. Henk H Schutte
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From a fellow Paladin 14 Aug 2000
By "shadowwalk" - Published on
This relatively short book is filled with interesting stories, people and events--not all of which are about physics or science. In fact, this is an enjoyable book for even the most determined liberal arts type who normally might avoid reading about physics. In fact, Dr. Townes seems to approach science and life with a "liberal arts" attitude: curious about everything and more than a little adventurous. He challenges readers to look under all the rocks for the excitement and learning to be found there. Read it for enjoyment and edification (a rare combination these days).
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! 25 Dec 2008
By WHC - Published on
This book describes the history of the laser and how it was invented (and how it was almost NOT invented). The author was ridiculed by the scientific authorities of the day for daring to suggest that such a device was possible, and for wasting time on its development. Thank goodness he forged ahead and ignored the advice (and threats) from the scientific "experts" of the day. A great read!
4.0 out of 5 stars the right place at the right time with the right mind set 15 Aug 2013
By G1 - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
to have the insight and education is important, but without the on going curiosity we will not move forward. Townes shows just how important this is and how it led to the maser, laser and beyond.
5.0 out of 5 stars helpful for anyone in sciences or public, incl. physicists 7 Sep 2014
By Dr. Joachim Gruber - Published on
Townes gives an insight in the troubles an innovator has even in physiics. Important messages: be connected, be prepared to stake your carreer on a topic and to ruin it if it so happens. Otherwise you are just one of the many and useful perfectionists
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