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This medal was established in 1980 to honor Charles Hard Townes, whose pioneering contributions to masers and lasers led to the development of the field of quantum electronics. It is given to an individual or a group for outstanding experimental or theoretical work, discovery or invention in the field of quantum electronics. Bell Laboratories originally endowed the award. Hewlett-Packard, The Perkin Fund, and students and colleagues of Charles Townes contributed generously in a Townes Medal Endowment Campaign.
Professor Boyd was awarded this honour for “for fundamental contributions to the field of nonlinear optics, including the development of methods for controlling the velocity of light, of quantum imaging methods, and of composite nonlinear optical materials.”