Britain's Brilliant Boffin
|Alan Dower Blumlein and the plaque on his home.|
|Alan Blumlein weds Doreen Lane in 1933.|
|Alan Blumlein as a schoolboy.|
|Alan Blumlein demonstrating his improved recording cutter at EMI. The man with him likely is Isaac Shoenberg, his collaborator and boss at EMI.|
|The Emitron television camera as used in weekly BBC broadcasts beginning in 1936.|
Blumlein and World War IIEMI pitched into the war effort by collaborating with the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), at Defford near Malvern. Sir Bernard Lovell was leading a team there that was developing ground-penetrating radar for RAF bombers to use. Since this involved radio waves, an area in which he was an expert, Blumlein joined the team. Radio waves had been used to direct bombers to their target, the Luftwaffe with its "Knickebein" (Crooked Leg) system and the British with Gee and Oboe, but bombing accuracy in this "battle of the beams" was terrible. Lovell's team was working on a radar that looked down, not forward, and could show the bomber navigators where they were in relation to the target in the dark or through clouds.
|Halifax V9977, the one in which Alan Blumlein perished. The blister carrying the H2S radar is visible.|
|An H2S radar set in use during World War II.|
Alan Blumlein's LegacyThe development of the H2S radar continued despite Blumlein's tragic death. On 3 July 1942, with the project still reeling from the crash, Churchill held a meeting and gave the remaining members of the H2S team priority on resources in order to finish the project. However, work proceeded quite slowly after this point, and it was not until 30 January 1943 that the first raid using H2S (fitted into Pathfinder Stirlings and Halifaxes) was made on Hamburg. From that point forward, almost nightly raids using H2S-equipped Pathfinder bombers that would fly ahead and drop flares at the target were made. By 21 February 1943, the results were so obviously beneficial to targeting that RAF Bomber Command ordered all bombers, not just the Pathfinder squadrons, to be equipped with H2S radar. The massive raids of the summer of 1943 on Hamburg (Operation Gomorrah) by Lancaster bombers fitted with H2S radar began the devastation of German cities which continued for the next two years. Development continued throughout the war, with an X band version operating at 3 cm, and then (after the war) 1.25 cm.
Without Blumlein the Second World War may not have ended well.
He worked on air interception radar, making a huge contribution to the defeat of German night bombers.
It would be appropriate indeed if, in recognition of the debt it owes him, the recording industry established an Alan Blumlein foundation with the object of awarding scholarships young electronics engineers aspiring to follow in the great man’s footsteps.Because Churchill ordered that the crash which killed Blumlein not be publicized, Blumlein simply sort of disappeared from public view. This led to wild rumors about him and his untimely demise. However, ultimately Alan Blumlein was just another war casualty, one of many unsung grunts who did his bit until the war claimed his life.
|Alan Blumlein's 1931 patent application for stereo sound.|
Blumlein still does not get proper recognition for his achievements, though his home at Ealing has been graced with a plaque erected in 1977 by the Greater London Council. There is talk of a film about him. Every time you turn on speakers and hear that stereo sound, though, you are enjoying the work of Alan Dower Blumlein and honoring his brilliance.
For his invention of stereo, Alan Blumlein was awarded a special individual Grammy in 2017.