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Nicolaas Bloembergen
Dutch-born American physicist

Nicolaas Bloembergen

Nicolaas Bloembergen
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Dutch-born American physicist
Is Physicist Scientist Theoretical physicist Educator
From United States of America Netherlands
Field Academia Science
Gender male
Birth 11 March 1920, Dordrecht
Age 102 years
Star sign Pisces
The details (from wikipedia)


Nicolaas Bloembergen (born March 11, 1920) is a Dutch-American physicist and Nobel laureate.


Bloembergen was born in Dordrecht on March 11, 1920, where his father was a chemical engineer and executive. He had five siblings, with his brother Auke later becoming a legal scholar. In 1938, Bloembergen entered the University of Utrecht to study physics. However, during World War II, the German authorities closed the University and Bloembergen spent two years in hiding.

Bloembergen left the war-ravaged Netherlands in 1945 to pursue graduate studies at Harvard University under Professor Edward Mills Purcell. Six weeks before his arrival, Purcell and his graduate students Torrey and Pound discovered nuclear magnetic resonance. Bloembergen was hired to develop the first NMR machine. At Harvard he attended lectures by Schwinger, Van Vleck, and Kemble.

While studying at Harvard, Bloembergen also worked part-time as a graduate research assistant for Purcell at the MIT Radiation Laboratory.

Bloembergen returned to the Netherlands in 1947, and submitted his thesis Nuclear Magnetic Relaxation at the University of Leiden. This was because he had completed all the preliminary examinations in the Netherlands, and Cor Gorter of Leiden offered him a postdoctoral appointment there. He received his Ph.D. degree from Leiden in 1948, and then was a postdoc at Leiden for about a year.

In 1949, he returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows. In 1951, he became an Associate Professor. He became Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics in 1957; Rumford Professor of Physics in 1974; and Gerhard Gade University Professor in 1980. In 1990 he retired from Harvard.

In 1996-1997, Bloembergen was a Visiting Scientist at the College of Optical Sciences of the University of Arizona; he became a Professor at Arizona in 2001.

In 1958, he was naturalized as a citizen of the United States.

He was awarded the Lorentz Medal in 1978. Bloembergen shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics with Arthur Schawlow and Kai Siegbahn for their work in laser spectroscopy. Bloembergen and Schawlow investigated properties of matter undetectable without lasers. He had earlier modified the maser of Charles Townes.

Bloembergen is part of the prolific academic lineage tree of J. J. Thomson, which includes many other Nobel Laureates, beginning with Thomson himself (Physics Nobel, 1906) and Lord Rayleigh (Physics Nobel, 1904), Ernest Rutherford (Chemistry Nobel 1908), Owen Richardson (Physics Nobel, 1928), and finally Bloembergen's advisor, Edward Purcell (Physics, Nobel 1952). Bloembergen's other influences include John Van Vleck (Physics Nobel, 1977) and Percy Bridgman (Physics Nobel, 1946).

Prof. Bloembergen is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Honorary Editor of the Journal of Nonlinear Optical Physics & Materials.


  • Corresponding member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, 1956
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1956
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1960
  • Foreign Honorary Member, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, 1978
  • Associé Étranger, Académie des Sciences, Paris, 1981
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1957
  • Oliver Buckley Prize, American Physical Society, 1958
  • IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award, Institute of Radio Engineers, 1959
  • Stuart Ballantine Medal, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, 1961
  • National Medal of Science, President of the United States of America, 1974
  • Lorentz Medal, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, 1978
  • Frederic Ives Medal, Optical Society of America, 1979
  • Von Humboldt Senior Scientist, 1980
  • Member Emeritus, United States National Academy of Engineering, 1984

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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