The UCF Townes Laser Institute is named in honor of Charles Townes, the laser’s founding father. Townes received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 for developing the fundamental inventions that led to the laser. Townes won the Nobel Prize for two inventions, the maser and the laser. Maser stands for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, and laser is short for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Townes and his research team coined both of those phrases.

In 2005, Townes joined Mother Teresa and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as the only winners of both the Nobel Prize and the Templeton Prize, which is given for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.