Readers React: Charles Townes was a teacher first
To the editor: Thank you for your excellent obituary of Charles Townes. As scientists who had the great fortune to work closely with Townes earlier in our careers, we benefited greatly from his tutelage and his attention.
Townes was a teacher above all else. He kept track of a dozen or so research projects that were being spearheaded at any given time by students in his laboratory at UC Berkeley, and he frequently greeted one of us in the morning with a suggestion about a new angle or the interpretation of a puzzling result.
His roster of students includes one other Nobel Prize winner, numerous members of academies of science and many scientists who have gone on to leadership positions in academic, industrial and government institutions. He was never too busy to talk with us, and he provides a dramatic counterexample to the cliche of the inaccessible professor.
Townes’ legacy includes the many students he mentored, and it will be perpetuated as we pass on what we learned from him to future generations.
Michael Werner, Pasadena
Paul Goldsmith, Pasadena
Werner is project scientist for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope; Goldsmith is chief technologist for astronomy, physics and space technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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