SAN FRANCISCO : Charles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser, a feat that revolutionized science, medicine, telecommunications and entertainment, has died at age 99, the University of California at Berkeley reported. Townes, a native of South Carolina, recalled that the idea for how to create a pure beam of short-wavelength, high-frequency light first dawned on him as he sat on a Washington, D.C., park bench among blooming azaleas in the spring of 1951.

The revelation led Townes and his students to build a device in 1954 they dubbed a maser, for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.