During World War II, South Carolina–born Charles Townes worked on nascent microwave technology and designed radar-based bombing systems for Bell Labs. After hostilities ended, he accepted a position at Columbia University. One spring morning in 1951 he experienced a eureka moment when he realized he could generate microwaves with molecules instead of free electrons.
Four decades ago, two physicists at Bell Laboratories stumbled upon a means of capturing light and turning it into data with a small piece of silicon, an invention that would revolutionize our daily lives
At about five o’clock one morning this past October, the retired physicist Willard S. Boyle received a scientist’s ultimate wake-up call. At first he couldn’t bestir himself—who could be calling at this ungodly hour?—but the phone was insistent, so his wife dragged herself out of bed.
A couple of minutes later, she was shaking him awake. “Stockholm is calling.”