Alan Dower Blumlein (1903 - 1942)
Born in Hampstead on June 29th 1903, of a German father who had emigrated from Alsace around the 1870s. Mother was a Scot, Jessie Dower. He was educated at Highgate School and City & Guilds from which he graduated with honours in 1923. Joined ST&C in September 1924 and worked on the development of telegraphic systems and submarine cables. Recruited in March 1929 from ST&C by Isaac Schoenberg, then Head of Patents and Research for the Columbia Graphophone Company, to develop a new electrical recording system which would circumvent the Patents of Western Electric. In this he was assisted by H A M Clarke and Herbert Holman. The HB1 (Holman/Blumlein) moving coil mic was designed, together with a cutter which was superior to the Western B and for which Columbia (and HMV) had been paying ½d royalties on each disc made with the system designed and patented by Bell labs, but licensed for manufacture by International Western Electric. This may be identified by a D following the matrix number. HMV and Columbia amalgamated in 1932 to become EMI.
Blumlein went on to develop stereophony for both the record industry and the cinema and then to television and radar. When he was killed in an air crash on Sunday June 7th 1942 in a Halifax bomber, V9977, at Ross-on-Wye, which also killed a number of the team of scientists who were involved in the development of the H2S blind guidance system, he had some 128 Patents to his name- one for every six weeks of his working life, not least was No 394,325 of 1932? which covers virtually every aspect of stereo today. The Blumlein cutter - known at Columbia as “The Bacon Slicer” - was weight driven and was used right up to the demise of wax around 1956. Dick Gundry recalled that during the 1940’s sessions to record the Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto for HMV with Solomon in the Hall of Bedford School, that one side changeover involved one side (side 5) being nearly 5 mins long and, to enable this to be done (getting perilously close to the point where the label would be stamped in), the cutters were jacked up on some school text books to give sufficient travel for the weights to run the side. See: Robert Alexander’s four articles on the Blumlein patents, Audio-Media March, April May June 1997. See also