C. Kumar N. Patel was born in Baramati, India in 1938. He received his bachelor's degree in Telecommunications from Poona University at the age of 19 (1958), then came to the US for graduate school. He earned an MS (1959) and PHD (1961) in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He spent more than 30 years at Bell Labs, starting in 1961.
Patel began doing fundamental research in laser action in the pure rare gases. This led him to discover laser action in carbon dioxide (1963). He is the inventor of the carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and the Spin-Flip Raman lasers. He pioneered the use of these and other lasers to measure trace gases in difficult environments.
In February, 2000 he founded Pranalytica, Inc. (Santa Monica, CA). where he is CEO and Chairman of the Board. The company initially developed revolutionary ultra-sensitive trace gas detection instrumentation based on laser spectroscopy. Driven by advances in its laser sources, Pranalytica led the commercialization of revolutionary new infrared light sources -- quantum cascade lasers.
Patel is a Professor of Physics with a joint appointment in Electrical Engineering at UCLA. He served as UCLA's vice chancellor for research through 1999. Among his many awards, Patel was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1974 and the National Academy of Engineering in 1978. He received the National Medal of Science given by the President of the United States in 1996.