Misadventures of A Scientist’s Wife


Frances Townes


$19.95 / ISBN-13:978-1-58790-128-7 / 213 pages / paperback / 5.5” x 8.5” /

plus 24 pages of black and white photos


Memoir / History of Science / 20th Century


The Twentieth Century has been a time of great discovery for both men and women. Charles Townes, the scientist of Adventures of a Scientist, received the Nobel Prize in 1964 for discovering the principles behind the Laser, the practical applications of which has transformed modern civilization. Frances Townes, his wife, has also been on a trail of discovery, searching for the core of individual relatedness that must lie behind and beyond technology if our civilization is to survive. Her work with homeless and runaway youth in Berkeley, California, has been ground-breaking. Born in 1916, just as women were getting the vote, Frances confronted the conflicting demands of håer generation. Her personal experiences, broader struggles and triumphs have helped redefine the role of women in the modern world.


Born in New England at the beginning of the 20th century in privileged circumstances, Frances Townes experienced the economic indignities of the Great Depression while at Smith college and then as a “working girl” in Manhattan. Marrying Charles Townes, a physicist and academic who went on to invent the Laser and win a Nobel Prize, she found herself with a ring side seat to many of the major events and discussions of the second half of the century as they traveled the globe and resided in New York, Paris, Japan, Washington, Boston and finally Berkeley, California. In Berkeley, Frances transcended the traditional role of a wife and mother which had filled the first half of her life, and was instrumental in starting the Women’s Studies program at the University of California. She later helped found the docent program in Natural History at the Oakland Museum and worked as a docent herself for many years. Her main focus, though, has been as a social activist and advocate for the homeless youth who gravitate to her California town.


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