Laser co-inventor gets $1.5 million religion prize

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NEW YORK (AP) – Charles Townes, co-inventor of the laser and a Nobel Prize-winner in physics, was named Wednesday as the recipient of a religion award billed as the world’s richest annual prize.

Townes, 89, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. The award is worth 795,000 British pounds _ more than $1.5 million _ and Townes was honored for talks and writings about the importance of relating science and religion.

He first addressed that topic in 1964, the same year he shared the Nobel with two Russians for research on principles underlying the laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).