Charles Townes, the Columbia University physicist who transformed modern society with his invention of the maser and the laser, receiving the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his effort, has died. He was 99. In 2005, Townes also won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, joining Mother Teresa as the only other individual to win both the Nobel and the Templeton.
Few other modern inventions have had the wide-ranging impact of the laser throughout all areas of society. Lasers are at the core of the CD and DVD players in the home, the bar-code scanner in the supermarket, range-finders and altimeters used by the military, speed detectors used by state troopers and a host of other commercial products.