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Alan Dower Blumlein - an essential contribution

I have just learned that the outcome of World War II was significantly influenced by a person I have never heard of. He is Alan Dower Blumlein.

Born in Hampstead from a British mother and a German-born naturalized British father, Alan was educated at City and Guilds College. He was an electronics engineer, “possibly the greatest British electronics engineer of the twentieth century" (Oxford DNB). His 128 patents, which were produced in a working lifetime of just eighteen years, "embrace the fields of telephony, electrical measurements, sound recording and sound reproduction (both monophonic and stereophonic), high-definition television, and radar." His work in stereophonic recording was twenty-five years ahead of the industry. All this work would prove critical to Britain fighting for her life against Nazi Germany.

In the late 1930s many people preferred to ignore the threat of war. Alan Blumlein was not one of them. He and E. L. C. White designed and demonstrated a 60 MHz radar in 1939. When the war began, Alan moved into high gear. He

“applied his binaural concepts to the problem of the sound location of enemy aircraft, and his transformer ratio arm principles to the design of a low-level altimeter for the RAF. . .Their solution to the minimum range problem and their development of a new modulator–transmitter (which became part of the AI Mark IV radar) contributed substantially to the defeat, from the beginning of 1941, of the German night bomber offensive over England. . .

Blumlein's work on the navigation radar H2S and its adaptation, known as air surface vessel (ASV) radar, for locating enemy U-boats, was invaluable. These radars had a dramatic effect on the battle of the Atlantic and on the allies' long-range strategic bombing of Germany. His delay-line circuits, automatic strobe-following concepts, and diverse electronic circuits found application in other types of radar, including GL Mark III—a gun-laying radar which played a significant role in the anti-aircraft gunnery defence of the United Kingdom” (DNB).

On 7 June 1942, when he was thirty-eight, Alan Blumlein was killed while flight testing a version of the H2S radar over the Wye Valley. He left a wife and two young sons, just three and six years old.

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