Townes, Charles Hard, 1915–, American physicist and educator, b. Greenville, S.C. He was educated at Furman Univ., Duke, and the California Institute of Technology (Ph.D., 1939), was on the technical staff of the Bell Telephone Laboratories (1939–48), and taught at Columbia (1948–59). After serving as vice president and director of research of the Institute for Defense Analyses, Washington, D.C., he was provost of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1961–66). Townes is known for his work on the theory and application of the maser, on which he obtained the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics connected with both maser and laser devices. He shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with N. G. Basov and A. M. Prokhorov for contributions to this field.