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on 19 August 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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on 20 January 2002
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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on 14 June 2001
For far too long a biography of Alan Blumlein had remained elusive. Now, at last, Robert Charles Alexander has done justice to this incredible man. This book is quite gripping, and at times reads just like a spy novel - I simply could not put it down.
I've now read it twice and have lent it to a friend who, like myself, is not an engineer or technical in any way, yet simply gets drawn in by one of the most fascinating British lives that it seems history has all but passed by.
This is not a book that takes you on a long drawn out journey through chronological events, but a seamless passage through a life cut tragically short at the age of just 38. Blumlein was a genius, of that I have little doubt, but quite how one mind can conceive of stereo, television, radar and a host of other inventions, and in such a short period of time, is quite beyond me.
I would recommend this book to anybody, whether they are technically minded or not. If you are able to come to grips with the elements of mathematics and acoustics then you will not be let down here, as Alexander explains all in manner which the layman can come to understand, and the expert enjoy.
However, if you just want an absolutely fascinating read, and discover a life which has remained hidden from society through a series of catastrophic and unfortunate events - not to mention government secrecy and cover-up - then this is the book for you.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, and rate it among the better biographies that I have read.
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on 21 December 2000
Blumlein is one of the unsung heroes of 20th century electronics; if you're reading this review then you're probably one of the very few who recognise his name. Even Turing has a higher profile, their common history of inventions that were unrecognised for the breadth of their usefulness until after their untimely deaths being a strange parallel between them.
He's famous for inventing major portions of almost every pre-war electronic invention that's still significant; long distance telephony, stereo sound, electronically scanned TV and finally microwave radar. Sadly this led to his death in a wartime aircrash, test-flying a highly secret H2S radar set.
It's hard to say where this book goes wrong, but somehow it never manages to capture the enthusiasm that any reader will begin to expect is due. Blumlein himself was an amateur pilot and quite an adventurer, yet the book portrays him as someone who never left the lab. Each invention is portrayed with enough detail to bore the uninterested, yet is still vague enough to annoy the technophile and certainly not to inform them.
The final section is on the fatal aircrash itself, treated with a plane-spotter's attention to detail. If only this detail could have been applied to some of the innovation earlier on, then the book might at least have satisfied those interested in the electronics.
Blumlein still deserves a better biography.
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on 6 January 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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on 15 July 2006
At least someone has at last written a biography of Blumlein - inventor of many aspects of disc recording, stereo, television, (and radar improvements) - the underpinnings of so much of modern entertainment systems. I found it a fascinating read, but was frustrated by the somewhat muddled descriptions of the inventions and the occasional editorial lapses. Whilst providing a lot of detail the book doesn't give much insight into what enabled or drove Blumlein to produce such a torrent of inventions and innovation in his short life. Nor does it satisfy technical readers with enough detail. I suspect the former will never be known at this remove, but perhaps the latter will be served by a more technical publication.

Nevertherless, read it and marvel at what Blumlein achieved. (PS I've discovered that the author (Robert Alexander) also has a website that provides extra information on Blumlein and an number of other audio pioneers).
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on 31 May 2016
A brilliant and thoroughly researched book.
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on 2 June 2015
v interesting
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