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'The Inventor Of Stereo: The Life & Works Of Alan Dower Blumlein'

by Robert Charles Alexander - ISBN 0-240-51628-1, Publ. Focal Press, 1999.

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The Blue Plaque at 37 The Ridings, Ealing - Alan Blumlein's last home

The Blue Plaque on the wall at 37, The Ridings, Ealing, London.

This was the last residence of Alan Dower Blumlein before his untimely death in 1942.

The plaque was erected by the Greater London Council in 1977.



Information About The Book

"Shortly after 4.20 p.m. on Sunday, 7 June 1942, a glorious summer's day, clear skies, warm sunshine and perfect visibility for flying, a Halifax bomber crashed into the steep hillside of a valley just north of the River Wye near the village of Welsh Bicknor in Herefordshire. All eleven occupants aboard were killed in the enormous fire, which engulfed the aircraft on impact. Of the scientific personnel who died that day, Alan Dower Blumlein stands out as possibly the greatest loss. "A national tragedy", one of his colleagues would call it, for Blumlein was, without any doubt, at a time when scientific genius was at its foremost, one of the most brilliant engineers of the twentieth century".

Those were the very first words that I wrote when I had decided that
I would write a biography of Alan Dower Blumlein. It was 8 January, 1995. For years I had studied Alan Blumlein and his work. This knowledge came partly from my career as an audio engineer, and partly from my father who, like Blumlein, had worked as an electrical engineer at EMI, Hayes just after the war. Though it was more than five years after Alan Blumlein's tragic death when my father worked in the Research & Development Department of EMI, the legacy of the man lived on 'almost as if he were there', my father recalled.

As a child, fascinated by all manner of audio devices, I had been introduced to the concept of stereo at the age of five by my father. It was at this time that I first heard the name Alan Dower Blumlein. In later years, when I became a lecturer in audio engineering, I passed on this information to my students, many of whom were as fascinated by this extraordinary man and his achievements as I was.

And yet, despite 128 patents, many of which affect our everyday lives even now in the twenty-first century, there was little information written about Blumlein, his life or his works. It was as if all written knowledge of the man had vanished from the face of the earth after 1942.

However, closer, detailed inspection of archived material revealed that a small, but dedicated band of followers had, over the years, kept alive the hope that one day a book which might do credit to this man would appear. For very nearly thirty years the academic and scientific world was kept in suspense by the ravings of the first 'official biographer', Francis Thomson.

When however, Thomson died in February 1998, no biography, no article, not even a single word had been published by a man who vociferously kept at bay any attempt to usurp his 'right' to what he saw as an exclusive work.

By this time however, I had been working on my book for over three years, secured a publisher and had contacted the Blumlein family, EMI, and the few colleagues of Blumleins' who remained alive.

The book launch

On 26 August 1999, a gathering of 150 specially invited guests, including Simon and David Blumlein, the two sons of Alan Blumlein, were present at Central Research Laboratories in Hayes (the modern day successor to the old R&D Department where Blumlein worked), for the launch of my book 'The Inventor of Stereo: The Life and Works of Alan Dower Blumlein'.

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to present copies of the book not only to the Blumlein family, but also to no fewer than six of Alan Blumlein's colleagues, the youngest of whom was then 89 years of age.


Blumleins notes in which he determines the element 'k' in the binaural sound process

Above is an example of Alan Blumlein's handwritten notes
which are kept to this day in the archives at EMI.
This particular page is of great importance as it refers for the
first time to the element 'K' in the binaural sound process.
The page dates from 25 September 1931, during the binaural
speech trials carried out by Alan Blumlein.

Author Robert Alexander with the Blumlein Family, VIP book launch at CRL, 26 August 1999

Above are the Blumlein famil with author Robert Alexander
during the official launch ceremony of the book on
16 August 1999 at CRL, Hayes.

Blumlein lecturing the IEE on the High Definition Television System in April 1938

Alan Blumlein addresses a packed session of the Institute of Electrical Engineers,
at Savoy Place, London on the evening of 21 April 1938.

He is discussing the Marconi-EMI high definition television system which he,
and his colleagues at EMI, had recently invented.

This system based on 405-lines constituted the worlds first regular television service
with transmissions beginning by the BBC from Alexandra Palace,
London on 2 November 1936.



Having waited for over half a century for a tribute to this extraordinary man, of whom the word 'genius' fails to do him justice, I see my book as the start of a process of worldwide public recognition for Alan Dower Blumlein. Please take the time to read through the elements of this website and judge for yourself how poorer we would all be without Stereo, Television, Radar and the many other things that Alan Blumlein turned his talent to.

To contact Robert Charles Alexander, the author of 'The Inventor of Stereo: The Life and Works of Alan Dower Blumlein', by direct e-mail:

Details of how to obtain this book from the publishers Focal Press, of through Amazon can be found on the 'Purchase Book' page of this website.

Robert C Alexander Watford, May 2000

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