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Shining light on relationship between laser light sculptor and laser inventor

As part of its commemoration of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, the Midlands is introducing Southern Lights, a one of a kind laser light sculpture, designed and installed by USC art professor Chris Robinson.

Beginning eclipse weekend, blue and green beams from the laser light sculpture will transect a section of the Congaree River between the Blossom Street and Gervais Street bridges, and will continue brightening Columbia’s evening skies for approximately a decade.

Robinson incorporated lasers into his teaching and art applications, world-wide, for more than four decades. In the South Carolina State Museum’s early years, Robinson met and collaborated with the laser’s inventor, Dr. Charles Townes, Nobel laureate (for his work on the laser) and Greenville native.

That professional connection led Robinson to remember Townes; the laser patriarch died in 2015 six months shy of his 100th birthday. Among other aesthetic and community-unifying purposes, the light sculpture “celebrates the life and work of Dr. Charles H. Townes.”

Sunday afternoon, August 20, at 3 pm, a slide-illustrated lecture, “The Brilliance Behind the Beams,” will be presented at Richland Library, 1431 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201, by Rachel Haynie, author of the just-released “Charles H. Townes: Beam Maker.” The presentation will explore the collegial relationship between Robinson and Townes and track the laser’s development and contemporary applications.

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