archive: SETI Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the laser,

SETI Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the laser,

Larry Klaes ( )
Tue, 04 May 1999 15:30:57 -0400

>X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.0 (Win16; I)
>Approved-By: "H. Alan Montgomery" <fhd@LCC.NET>
>Date: Tue, 4 May 1999 08:56:00 -0700
>Sender: News about Space from SEDS <>
>From: "H. Alan Montgomery" <>
>Organization: Master CraftsMon
>Subject: Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the
laser, dies
>Subject: Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the laser, dies
> (Forwarded)
>Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 20:57:41 -0400
>From: Andrew Yee <>
>Organization: via Internet Direct
>Stanford University
>David F. Salisbury, News Service
>(650) 725-1944; e-mail:
>Arthur Schawlow, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the laser, dies
>By David F. Salisbury
>Arthur L. Schawlow, a.k.a. The Laser Man, died yesterday morning, April
28, at
>the Stanford Hospital from pneumonia and congestive heart failure following a
>prolonged battle with leukemia. He was 77 years old.
>An emeritus physics professor at Stanford, Schawlow picked up the nickname of
>Laser Man because he gave a number of popular demonstrations of the new tool
>that he had helped to invent. In one of his favorite demonstrations, he
used a
>"ray gun" laser to shoot through a transparent balloon to pop a dark Mickey
>Mouse balloon inside without damaging the outer balloon in order to
>the laser's selectivity.
>With these exhibitions, Schawlow demonstrated two aspects of his
character: the
>serious scientist, who never lost his interest in how matter behaves and in
>to make it behave differently, and a deeply caring person with an
>sense of humor.
>Through the invention of the laser, Schawlow and his co-inventor Charles H.
>Townes, professor emeritus of physics at the University of
>have had a major impact on a wide range of scientific disciplines. Although
>dubbed a technology in search of an application when it was invented, lasers
>have played an essential role in scientific studies ranging from physics to
>geology to microbiology. At the same time, lasers have found a host of
>commercial applications, ranging from surveying to CD music players, from
>welding detached retinas back into the eye to moving tremendous amounts of
>across country via optical fiber.
>Schawlow was born in Mount Vernon, New York on May 5, 1921. His mother was
>Canadian, and at her urging the family moved to Toronto a few years later.
As a
>boy, he was interested in scientific things -- electrical, mechanical, or
>astronomical -- and read nearly everything that the local library could
>on these subjects. He intended to go to the University of Toronto to study
>engineering, but he graduated from high school in 1937, the depths of the
>depression, and his family couldn't afford the tuition. It was only by
>a scholarship in mathematics and physics that he was able to attend the
>Long time friend and colleague, Boris Stoicheff, met Schawlow in 1948 at
>Toronto. Schawlow had begun his graduate studies and was running an atomic
>spectroscopy experiment in the basement of a campus laboratory. In an
>introduction to an oral history of Schawlow's life, Stoicheff, who joined the
>faculty at the University of Toronto, writes, "It was a special pleasure to
>visit the basement lab, where often in the evenings Art would be
serenading his
>atomic beam with the clarinet, which he played reasonably well." His
>consisted mostly of Dixieland jazz, and he had a large collection of jazz
>records. As his career progressed, Schawlow continued to devote his
evenings to
>music halls and jazz concerts while attending scientific conferences in
>After obtaining his graduate degree at Toronto, a post doctoral fellowship
>Schawlow to Columbia University to work with Charles H. Townes, an
>leader in the field of microwave spectroscopy. "It has been an enormous
>privilege to have known Art and work with him," Townes said last year at a
>symposium honoring his colleague. "I appreciate him as a fantastically good
>scientist, and a friend, and mostly as a person."
>Townes had intended to keep Schawlow at Columbia, but the young physicist
>"double-crossed" him by marrying his youngest sister, Aurelia, in 1951. The
>university's anti-nepotism rules kept him from hiring his brother-in-law, so
>Schawlow got a job as a physicist at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he
>studying superconductivity.
>On the weekends Schawlow continued to work with Townes on a book on microwave
>spectroscopy that they had started while he was at Columbia. Townes had
>the maser, a device that creates coherent beams of microwaves -- work for
>he subsequently won the Nobel prize. The two were trying to extend the basic
>principle of the maser to optical wavelengths, when Schawlow got the idea of
>using a long chamber with a mirror at each end. The two published their
>in 1957, which set off an intense scientific competition to produce the first
>actual laser, which was built in 1960.
>Schawlow and Townes received a patent for the laser in 1960, but they never
>profited from it because Schawlow was working for Bell Labs and Townes was a
>Bell Labs consultant at the time.
>In 1961 Schawlow joined the physics department at Stanford, where he
>his research in the fields of optical and microwave spectroscopy,
>superconductivity, lasers, and laser spectroscopy. In 1981, he received a
>Prize for Physics for "his contribution to the development of laser
>At Stanford, Schawlow had a major influence on a number of young
scientists. He
>gathered about him a large group of students, and a steady stream of
>distinguished visitors. "His students enjoyed the fatherly advice given with
>Art's usual sense of humor and understanding," Stoicheff said. Some examples
>are: "To do successful research, you don't need to know everything, you just
>need to know of one thing that isn't known;" and "Anything worth doing is
>doing twice, the first time quick and dirty, and the second time the best way
>you can."
>Stanford physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Chu reports visiting a physics
>laboratory where a resident had posted "The Sayings of Art Schawlow" on his
>wall. Schawlow is someone who managed "to keep the humanity in science," Chu
>When reporters and science fiction writers began speculating about the use of
>lasers as death rays, Schawlow taped a particularly lurid poster, with the
>"The Incredible Laser," on his laboratory door after adding his own subtitle,
>"For credible laser see inside."
>One of the reasons that Schawlow chose Stanford had nothing to do with his
>scientific career. His son, Artie, had autism and a special center for
>handicapped children, called the Peninsula Children's Center, provided a
>place for him to go.
>While attending the Nobel award ceremony in Stockholm, the Schawlows heard
of a
>technique for treating autism called "facilitated communication." This
>using a hand-held communicator and a special calculator designed to improve
>communications with autistic individuals. They tried it with their son and
>it helped. So they became champions of the technique and were largely
>responsible for introducing it to the United States, where it remains
>The Schawlows later helped to organize a nonprofit corporation, California
>Vocations, to provide a group home for autistic people. A further tragedy was
>the death of Aurelia in 1991, who was killed in an automobile accident
while on
>her way to visit their son.
>Schawlow is survived by his son, Artie Schawlow of Paradise Calif., and two
>daughters -- Helen Johnson of Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Edie Dwan of
>Charlotte, North Carolina -- and five grandchildren, Thomasina and Cleo
>and Colin, Rachel and Andy Dwan.
>A memorial service has not yet been planned. Please send any donations to the
>Arthur Schawlow Center, 1629 Cypress Lane, Paradise, CA 95969.
>Andrew Yee