IEEE commemorative Milestone Plaque unveiled at Abbey Road Studios to celebrate the work of Blumlein, the first name in stereo

Alan BlumleinLondon, April 2, 2015 – The ground-breaking work of Alan Dower Blumlein, the inventor of stereo sound recording, was celebrated yesterday at Universal Music’s Abbey Road Studios with a Milestone honour from the IEEE, the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation.

Unveiled by Howard Michel, President and CEO of the IEEE and Isabel Garvey, Managing Director of Abbey Road Studios alongside Alan Dower Blumlein’s son, Simon and grandson, Alan, the plaque honours the work of Alan Dower Blumlein and his enduring influence in recording technology. One of the most influential British engineers of the twentieth century, Alan Dower Blumlein also made significant advancements in telecommunications, television and airborne radar before his untimely death in an aircraft accident in 1942.

The presentation featured prized artefacts and documents from Alan Dower Blumlein’s work at EMI, now part of Universal Music, displayed courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust. These included rarely heard or seen audio and video recordings made by Blumlein, early tests of stereo recording and the world’s first ever stereo film, “Trains at Hayes Station”. The event also included panel discussions and interactive sessions on the evolution of audio engineering from the 1930s to the present day.

Simon Blumlein and Alan Blumlein said: “On behalf of the Blumlein family we are extremely grateful to the IEEE for the Milestone Award in recognition of the Invention of Stereo and the work carried out by Alan Dower Blumlein. Abbey Road Studios is the perfect location for this event and celebration. It is incredible to think that Alan Dower Blumlein made live Stereo recordings in this legendary facility in 1934. To everyone at Abbey Road Studios, The EMI Archive Trust and Universal Music, we extend our gratitude for their support and contribution to this very special day.”

Howard Michel, President and CEO of IEEE, said: “IEEE Milestones are about recognising the advances that have moved technology forward and bettered our world, and Alan Dower Blumlein’s invention of stereo sound recording is a perfect example of that.  His work, not just in audio technology, but in radar and telecommunications truly changed the world we live in. IEEE is proud, and humbled, to be able to salute one of the giants of technology in the 20th century.”

Isabel Garvey said: “Everyone at Abbey Road Studios is extremely proud to be a part of Alan Dower Blumlein’s legacy and the advancement of audio technology. It’s a privilege to display this commemorative plaque to celebrate his memory and mark his achievements for future visitors to Abbey Road Studios.”

Ross Foster, Senior Vice President of Commercial Affairs, Universal Music Group International and a Trustee of the EMI Group Archive Trust, said: “Alan Dower Blumlein was a rare person who helped to revolutionise not only audio, but television, telecommunications and airborne radar for people the world over. Our company is proud to be a part of the commemoration of this incredible individual and his work and I would like to thank the IEEE, the Blumlein Family and Abbey Road Studios for such a fitting tribute.”

The citation that appears on the IEEE Milestone Plaque reads:

‘Alan Dower Blumlein filed a patent for a two-channel audio system called “stereo” on 14 December 1931. It included a “shuffling” circuit to preserve directional sound, an orthogonal “Blumlein Pair” of velocity microphones, the recording of two orthogonal channels in a single groove, stereo disc-cutting head, and hybrid transformer to mix directional signals. Blumlein brought his equipment to Abbey Road Studios in 1934 and recorded the London Philharmonic Orchestra.’

Born in Hampstead, London on 29th June 1903, Alan Dower Blumlein was one of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century who transformed the worlds of audio and recording technology, television and airborne radar. In March 1929, aged 25, he joined Columbia Gramophone, one of the forerunners of EMI. During his time at Columbia and EMI he thrived as an incredibly inventive and innovative engineer, filing 121 patents in the space of 13 years. On 7th June 1942, when he was just 38, Alan Dower Blumlein’s life was cut tragically short in an aircraft accident as he was testing the H2S airborne radar system that he had developed and which was soon deployed throughout the RAF’s fleet.


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