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The Inventor of Stereo : The life and works of Alan Dower Blumlein [Hardcover]

Robert Alexander
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Aug 1999
This book is the definitive study of the life and works of one of Britain's most important inventors who, due to a cruel set of circumstances, has all but been overlooked by history.

Alan Dower Blumlein led an extraordinary life in which his inventive output rate easily surpassed that of Edison, but whose early death during the darkest days of World War Two led to a shroud of secrecy which has covered his life and achievements ever since.

His 1931 Patent for a Binaural Recording system was so revolutionary that most of his contemporaries regarded it at as more than 20 years ahead of its time. Even years after his death, the full magnitude of its detail had not been fully utilized. Among his 128 Patents are the principle electronic circuits critical to the development of the world's first electronic television system. During his short working life, Blumlein produced patent after patent breaking entirely new ground in electronic and audio engineering.

During the Second World War, Alan Blumlein was deeply engaged in the very secret work of radar development and contributed enormously to the system eventually to become 'H2S'- blind bombing radar. Tragically, during an experimental H2S flight in June 1942, the Halifax bomber in which Blumlein and several colleagues were flying, crashed and all aboard were killed. He was just days short of his 39th birthday.

For many years there have been rumours about a biography of Alan Blumlein, yet none has been forthcoming. This is the world's first study of a man whose achievements should rank among those of the greatest Britain has produced. This book provides detailed knowledge of every one of his patents and the process behind them, while giving an in depth study of the life and times of this quite extraordinary man.

Robert Charles Alexander is a consultant audio engineer having worked in the professional audio industry since 1983.

Born in Hampstead, London in June 1964, he was educated at the renowned Rudolph Steiner education system where he trained in classical music, reading, composition and arrangement. Following graduation from college in London, at the age of 21 he was instrumental in the organistaion of a major fund-raising project for the 1985 Live Aid appeal.

In 1989, he travelled to America working in Los Angeles, before moving on to Australia in 1990. While in Sydney he first studied and then began lecturing in audio engineering at the world's largest audio engineering college, subsequently returning to London in 1992 where he became a principal lecturer.

In 1996, he was appointed Editor of 'Audio Media', the world's leading professional audio technology magazine, and became Executive Editor of the title with the launch of its US version in late 1997.

During his time with 'Audio Media' he travelled extensively throughout the world writing key articles on the industry and gaining a reputation for keen, concise writing underlined by detailed research.

Since early 1999, he has become a full-time consultant to the professional music industry, though he continues to lecture at universities and colleges around Britain. He is a member of the Music Producers Guild, an associate member of the Institute of Broadcast Sound and a member of the Audio Engineering Society.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press (19 Aug 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240515773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240515779
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,326,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Fascinating man, fascinating inventions, fascinating story behind the 30 year wait for a biography. We recommend you read it - our congratulations to the author.'
Everyday Practical Electronics, November 1999

'Thanks for the quick delivery of the Blumlein book, for which we have been waiting at least 25 years! ... In the audio community, every enthusiast will wish to own this book.'
Audio Amateur Incorporated, September 1999

'One of the most complete accounts of the development of Blumlein's invention. ...A fine tribute which must be considered a standard reference.'
Grampophone, 1999 Awards Issue

'Through extraordinary hard work, Alexander has now ...raised this man [Blumlein] from the dead.'
New Scientist, October 1999

'This is a 'must read' book ... I found it quite impossible to put down.'
Line Up, October/November 1999

'I recommend this book for all aspiring - and those of us in need of inspiring - engineers'
Studio Sound, December 1999

From the Publisher

'Fascinating man, fascinating inventions, fascinating story behind the 30 year wait for a biography. We recommend you read it - our congratulations to the author.' Everyday Practical Electronics, November 1999

'Thanks for the quick delivery of the Blumlein book, for which we have been waiting at least 25 years! ... In the audio community, every enthusiast will wish to own this book.' Audio Amateur Incorporated, September 1999

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Alan Dower Blumlein was born on 29 June 1903, at 31 Netherhall Gardens (just off the Finchley Road), in Hampstead, London. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Forgotten 'VIS' 19 Aug 2003
Alan Dower Blumlein - another almost-long-forgotten engineer who may be categorised as a 'Very Important Scientist' - first came to my attention as a 13 year old reading a Heathkit construction manual.
Since then, I have been waiting for a biography as accessible as this one. It describes the science of Blumlein's work in an understandable way so we are better able to grasp his contribution to his fields of endeavour - particularly binaural (or 'stereo') sound reproduction.
The level of detail in the cause of Blumlein's untimely death may seem a little too much but it is a good indicator of the level of thoroughness and enthusiasm that Alexander brings to bear on his subject.
An excellent and enjoyable read! Well worth it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
There is little doubt after reading this book that Alan Blumlein was THE engineer of the 20th Century. That he is almost unknown is a tragedy of almost incalculable proportions. Luckily with this biography people will at last have the chance to read about this amazing man who I first heard about purely by accident.
Apparently, a biography was years in coming and then in 1999 Robert Alexander published his followed by another by Russell Burns in 2000. I bought both books and devoured them as they have positive and negative aspects to both. The Burns book concentrates on electrical engineering and has a rather long-winded slow way of getting the points across. The Alexander book is a much easier read and I liked the way that it stuck to a chronological format.
Alexander concentrates on audio engineering and radar and his technical coverage of these two subjects is quite faultless. I found that this book was very hard to put down, which is always the best compliment I think a reader can pay an author.
I would have liked more detail with regard to the television period, especially the pre-war coverage of the 1937 Coronation.
On the whole I think that this book is readable enough to appeal to anybody who is looking for information of a technical or non-technical on Blumlein. You can read it on two levels, follow the storyline which in the Alexander book is fascinating and pervasive throughout - and totally lacking in the Burns book. Also, for the more advanced or scholar of Blumlein and his achievements there is everything you could possibly want with exhaustive coverage of all 128 of Blumlein's patents.
A truly great book and I congratulate the author for his work. Long overdue, but then sometimes in life the best things are worth waiting for.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but technically flawed. 6 Jan 2002
A well researched book about the tragically short life of the man whose genius changed the lives of nearly everybody in the world. He revolutionised telephone communications, sound recording and television standards and helped to win the Second World War by his outstanding contribution to the development of RADAR. It is deplorable that this country has never awarded him the honour he so obviously deserves.
Robert Alexander's book makes fascinating reading but is marred by flawed technical explanations of some of the audio patents. Also, G.F Dutton's first name was Gilbert. His colleagues called him Gee-Eff (Geoff?) for these were his initials.
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