Arthur Leonard Schawlow: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God



On 05 May 1999, Arthur Leonard Schawlow (1921–1999) passed away. The 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics was co-awarded to Schawlow with Nicolaas Bloembergen (b. 1920) and Kai Siegbahn (1918–2007) “for their contribution to the development of laser spectroscopy.” He had studied at the University of Toronto and worked at Bell Labs, later teaching at Columbia University and Stanford University.

A devoted orthodox Christian, Schawlow had once stated “I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.” He was known to be a member of a Methodist Church in California. As an avid fan of traditional American jazz, he had amassed a considerable collection of LP’s and records.

Prof. Schawlow was married to Aurelia Townes, younger sister of physicist Charles Hard Townes (1915–2015), with whom he was the father of three children. One son had been diagnosed autistic and Prof. Schawlow became committed to working toward treatments for this condition, working alongside Prof. Robert Hofstadter (1915–1990), whose son was also autistic, and helping establish an Autistic Treatment and Care Facility in Paradise, California, later named the Arthur Schawlow Center in 1999.

Nave, Carl R. “Laser Spectroscopy.” Hyperphysics. GSU.
Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life and Homo Sapiens. Eds. H. Margenau, R.A. Varghese (Chicago, La Salle, IL: Open Court Press, 1992), 106.
Image: © Encyclopedia Britannica.

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