Updated 18-XI-2018

Dr. Katherine Blodgett

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

Katherine Blodgett

Katherine Blodgett was, perhaps, the most celebrated of the women scientists who worked at General Electric. While Mary Andrews was closely associated with Saul Dushman, Katherine Blodgett was associated with Irving Langmuir. Besides being the first woman scientist with a doctorate at the GE Laboratory, she was also the first woman to earn a Ph.D. degree in Physics from Cambridge University in England. Dr. Blodgett was also the first woman to receive the Photographic Society of America Progress Award.

Katherine Blodgett was born in Schenectady, New York on 10 January 1898. Schenectady was also to be the location of her final resting place. After attending Bryn Mawr, she schooled at the University of Chicago before her sojourn to Cambridge, England.

Dr. Blodgett became internationally known in the 1930s when she developed a non-reflecting "invisible" glass. This was accomplished by the deposition of 44 layers of soap film (barium stearate) onto a glass slide. While such films were not durable enough for commercial use, her development initiated a search for more durable ones. Today camera lenses, spectacles, high performing lamps and a broad variety of other optical products employ such anti-reflection films on their surfaces.

It is more than tempting to relate that part of the work for which Langmuir was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1932 to the study of films on water. Dr. Blodgett's work was closely linked with that of Langmuir's. Apparently Langmuir's work followed the reading of an article in which was described the experiments of an eighteen year old woman by the name of Agnes Pockels. With very simple tools Miss Pockels performed experiments with soap films. Family health problems prevented her from pursuing a scientific career but she was awarded an honorary doctorate in the same year that Langmuir received the Nobel Prize.

Katherine Blodgett co-authored eight articles with Dr. Langmuir. Her lamp-related work dealt with heat losses at incandescent lamp lead wires, the design of tungsten springs for maintaining wire straight (such as in the saw-mill lamp), and adsorption and absorption of gases on/in tungsten filaments.

Kathering Blodgett was gifted in theory and experiment and stood in exalted rank among her colleagues. She garnered four honorary doctorates. Dr. Blodgett passed away on 12 October 1979 in the city in which she was born.

  1. US 2,220,860 - Nov 05, 1940 - Film structure and method of preparation
  2. US 2,220,861 - Nov 05, 1940 - Reduction of surface reflection
  3. US 2,220,862 - Nov 05, 1940 - Low-reflectance glass
  4. US 2,493,745 - Jan 10, 1950 - Method of making electrical indicators of mechanical expansion (with Vincent J. Schaefer)
  5. US 2,587,282 - Feb 26, 1952 - Step gauge for measuring thickness of thin films
  6. US 2,589,983 - Mar 18, 1952 - Electrical indicator of mechanical expansion (with Vincent J. Schaefer)
  7. US 2,597,562 - May 20, 1952 - Electrically conducting layer
  8. US 2,636,832 - Apr 28, 1953 - Method of forming semiconducting layers on glass andarticle formed thereby