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Schawlow, Arthur (Leonard)

laser siegbahn improved townes’s

[ show loh] (1921–99) US physicist: co-inventor of the laser.

Schawlow’s early work was at Toronto and his postdoctoral research was with at Columbia University. The two remained in contact; Schawlow married Townes’s sister. After 10 years at Bell Telephone Laboratories, a professorship for Schawlow at Stanford followed in 1961.

Townes and Schawlow collaborated to extend the maser principle to light by devising the laser, although the first working laser was constructed by in 1960. (For an account of masers and lasers see Townes’s entry.) From the early 1970s Schawlow used laser methods to simplify atomic spectra, and to give improved values for basic physical quantities, such as the constant, and extraordinarily precise values for the electronic energy levels in the hydrogen atom. Schawlow shared a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his work on laser spectroscopy. A fellow prizewinner was N B Bloembergen (1920– ) who had also devised improved masers and lasers, and used the latter to induce ruptures of specific chemical bonds. The third prizewinner was K M B Siegbahn (1918– ) who, like his father K M G Siegbahn (1886–1978; Nobelist in 1924), worked with X-rays. The younger Siegbahn studied the electron emission caused by X-ray irradiation of molecules, and showed that it could be used as an analytical method.

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