Katharine Burr Blodgett Biography


Birthday: January 10, 1898 (Capricorn)

Born In: Schenectady

Katherine Burr Blodgett is not only one of the most renowned scientists of her era but also someone who must be credited with breaking the glass ceiling that was imposed on women who wanted to be a part of the scientific community and in that regard it must be said that she was a rousing success. Blodgett broke many barriers in her career as a scientist of world renown and became a high flying member of the corporate community through her work as a researcher for one of the biggest corporation in the world at the time. Her research work led to patents that would bring about the presence of extremely important products in the market at the time and it was not a surprise that she was hailed as one of the most gifted physicists and inventors of her era. In fact it would not be an exaggeration to say that Blodgett is one of the most gifted physicist-inventors across any era and considering the fact that she also had to overcome huge odds due to the prevalent gender politics of the era; it can be safely said that her life as a scientist was well and truly an inspiring one. Read on to know more about her life and works
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 81

Physicists American Women

Died on: October 12, 1979

place of death: Schenectady

U.S. State: New Yorkers

City: Schenectady, New York

More Facts

education: University of Cambridge, University of Chicago, Bryn Mawr College

awards: Garvan–Olin Medal

Childhood & Early Life
Katharine Burr Blodgett was born on January 10, 1898 to George Blodgett and Katharine Burr in the city Schenectady in New York. Her father worked as patent lawyer for one of the largest corporations in the world at the time- ‘General Electric’.
Her father was killed by a burglar a few months ahead of her birth. The family did not have any financial difficulties since her father had left enough money and in 1901 her mother decided to take the family to France.
The family lived in France till Blodgett was 6 years old and upon returning to New York she studied at ‘Rayson School’. She graduated in the year 1913 at the age of 15 and showed a remarkable gift in the sciences.
Blodgett attended ‘Bryn Mawr College’ in Pennsylvania and graduated in the year 1917. She studied physics and mathematics in college and excelled in both those subjects which prompted her to study further.
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During the Christmas vacation in college Blodgett visited the ‘General Electric’ plant at her home town Schenectady, in 1917. There she was told by chemist Irving Langmuir that she would need to get a master’s degree in order to have a job there.
In the year 1918, Katherine Burr Blodgett acquired her master’s degree from the ‘University of Chicago’ and in the same year she was employed by ‘General Electric’. In the process; she became the first female scientist to have ever been employed by ‘General Electric’.
She worked at ‘General Electric’ as a scientist for 6 years during which she published a paper in the ‘Physical Review’ that stated that the usage of carbon molecules could improve the effectiveness of gas masks.
In the year 1924, she went to ‘Cambridge University’ in England to complete her PhD and two years later she became the first woman to have ever been awarded the degree by the hallowed institution. She thereafter returned to work at ‘General Electric’ immediately.
In the year 1935, Blodgett worked with her mentor, at General Electric, Irving Langmuir and created glass that had 44 monomolecular coatings that resulted in making sure there was no reflection and it was named the ‘Langmuir-Blodgett film’, after the inventors.
Blodgett also invented the method of measuring the molecular coats that were put on glass and more often than not the length of those coats used to be as miniscule as one millionth of one inch. The method was called the ‘colour gauge’.
In the year 1963, she retired from General Electric after a collaboration of nearly five decades. In retirement she embraced her love for gardening and was involved in several experiments related to horticulture.
Major Works
Katie’s most important contribution was the development of an accurate and precise method to measuring transparent objects. Using the same technique she developed non-reflecting glass coated with multiple layers of an oily film developed by her mentor. In addition to this, she successfully obtained 8 patents throughout her lifetime.
Awards & Achievements
In the year 1945, Katherine Burr Blodgett was honoured by the prestigious ‘American Association of University Women’ with the ‘Achievement Award’ for her role as a female scientist.
In the year 1951, she was awarded with the ‘Garvan-Olin Medal’ which is awarded in order to ‘recognise distinguished scientific accomplishment, leadership and service to chemistry by women chemists’.
The ‘US Chamber of Commerce’ inducted her into their list of 15 women of achievement, in the year 1951.
Personal Life & Legacy
Katherine Burr Blodgett did not get married and instead devoted her whole life to the pursuit of science. She lived at two stages of her life with two different women in a Boston marriage or the custom in New England in which two women lived together without needing the company and financial support of a man.
On October 12, 1979, the world saw the last of this erudite inventor, when she passed away at the age of 81 in her residence.
Katherine Blodgett was an amateur actor and took part in the plays arranged by the theatre group in Schenectady.

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