Charles Townes, Raj Reddy receive the 2006 Vannevar Bush Award

Townes, father of quantum electronics, and Reddy, a computing and robotics pioneer are honored

Charles Townes probably chuckles every time he sees the television ad with the cell-phone-carrying man asking, "Can you hear me now?" And Raj Reddy may have the same reaction when he sees robots dominate the assembly lines of major car manufacturers.

For Townes, a still-active Nobel Prize-winning physicist at age 90, his invention and demonstration of the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and its optical counterpart, the laser, kick-started a new generation of modern communications, global networks and photonic science and technology.

Now credited as the father of quantum electronics, Townes' work has led to developments such as the atomic clocks that keep the world's time and the ultra-sensitive radio receivers that were part of the first communications satellites.

Meanwhile, Reddy, founding director of the nation's first robotics laboratory, The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is considered a national leader in transforming computer science from a disparate group of academic disciplines into an integrated field, built upon his seminal work in human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence and other integrated computing innovations. His work has helped the United States lead in a range of computer science developments.

Reddy co-chaired the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) in the late 1990s, laying the groundwork for a national policy to significantly increase federal investments in information technology research.

The National Science Board today named Townes and Reddy to receive a unique national honor--the Vannevar Bush Award--for their lifetime contributions to science and for their long-standing statesmanship in science on behalf of the nation. Townes and Reddy will receive their awards May 9 at a dinner to be held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The Science Board is a 24-member body of policy advisors to the President and Congress on matters of science and engineering research, and is the policy making and oversight body for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency supporting all areas of fundamental research, primarily at the nation's universities.

The board established the Vannevar Bush Award in 1980 to honor his unique contributions to public service. Bush was a prominent science adviser to the President and wrote the highly acclaimed report, Science: The Endless Frontier, that steered government science policy beyond World War II into a more modern era and made the case for establishing what became the National Science Foundation.

The awards announced today are the 25th and 26th in the history of the national honor.

Townes receives the award just over a century after Einstein's 1905 epoch paper on the "photoelectric effect." While electronics emerged not long afterward, it was not until nearly 50 years later that Townes defined some of the practical applications of Einstein's insight.

In 1964, Townes shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander M. Prokhorov and Nikolai G. Basov for work in quantum electronics leading to the "construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the laser-maser principle."

Townes has had a long and distinguished career, spending its last 39 years at the University of California, Berkeley. Besides his scientific achievements, Townes also served many governmental organizations. He was vice president and director of research of The Institute for Defense Analysis and vice chair of the President's Science Advisory Committee, and he organized and chaired the Science and Technology Advisory Committee for Manned Space flight from 1964 until after the first Apollo landing in 1970. He also chaired NASA's Space Program Advisory Council and was a member of the Defense Science Board in the 1980s.

Reddy is considered one of the most notable contributors to the information revolution in the past four decades. He directed the nation's first robotics institute, which recognized the interrelationships between artificial intelligence and robotics and allowed discoveries leading to some of the nation's most important new technologies. Some of those include broad use of industrial robotics that have increased productivity, state-of-the-art medical developments like hip replacement surgery, and mobile robotic devices in NASA's planetary exploration program.

In addition to serving on PITAC and organizing the nation's IT research agenda, Reddy's influence nationally and internationally is significant. He taught or mentored a number of Silicon Valley executives. Reddy also established a "CMU West" in the valley. He is also developing the Million Book Digital Library Project, as well as helping low-level readers rural environments worldwide gain access to computer appliances and technology to improve their quality of life.

Reddy's other major project is to combine the personal computer, telephone, television and video-phone into an inexpensive device.

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More information on the Vannevar Bush Award is at: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/bush/bush.htm

More information on the recipients may be found at: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml (Townes)
http://www.rr.cs.cmu.edu (Reddy)

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Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit http://www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".

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