Katharine Burr Blodgett

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Katherine Burr Blodgett is not only one of the most known scientists of her day, but she is also credited for shattering the glass ceiling that was imposed on women who wanted to be a part of the scientific community, and she was a tremendous success in that regard. Blodgett’s job as a researcher for one of the world’s largest corporations at the time helped her break numerous barriers in her career as a world-renowned scientist and as a high-flying member of the corporate community. Her research resulted in patents that allowed for the existence of incredibly important products on the market at the time, and she was regarded as one of the most gifted physicists and inventors of her day. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that Blodgett is one of the most gifted physicist-inventors of any era, and given the fact that women had to overcome enormous difficulties owing to the dominant gender politics of the time, her existence as a scientist was genuinely inspirational. Continue reading to learn more about her life and work.

Childhood and Adolescence

Katharine Burr Blodgett was born in the city of Schenectady, New York, on January 10, 1898, to George Blodgett and Katharine Burr. Her father was a patent lawyer for ‘General Electric,’ one of the world’s greatest firms at the time.
Her father was murdered by a burglar just months before she was born. Her father had left enough money for the family to live comfortably, and her mother chose to take the family to France in 1901.

Blodgett’s family lived in France until she was six years old, after which she returned to New York to attend the ‘Rayson School.’ She graduated from high school in 1913 at the age of 15 and showed a tremendous aptitude for science.

Blodgett attended Pennsylvania’s ‘Bryn Mawr College’ and graduated in 1917. She excelled in both physics and mathematics at college, prompting her to pursue advanced studies in both fields.

Career of Katharine Burr Blodgett

Blodgett visited the ‘General Electric’ plant in her hometown of Schenectady during her Christmas vacation in college in 1917. There, scientist Irving Langmuir told her that she would need to earn a master’s degree in order to work there.

Katherine Burr Blodgett received her master’s degree from the ‘University of Chicago’ in 1918 and began working for ‘General Electric’ the same year. In the process, she made history as the first female scientist to work for ‘General Electric.’

She worked as a scientist for six years at ‘General Electric,’ during which time she produced a study in the ‘Physical Review’ claiming that using carbon molecules might increase the efficiency of gas masks.

She proceeded to ‘Cambridge University’ in England to finish her Ph.D. in 1924, and two years later she became the first woman to receive the degree from the prestigious university. She went back to work at ‘General Electric’ right away after that.

Blodgett collaborated with her mentor, Irving Langmuir, at General Electric in 1935 to develop glass with 44 monomolecular coatings that ensured no reflection, and it was dubbed the ‘Langmuir-Blodgett film’ after the inventors.

Blodgett also created a method for measuring the length of molecular coatings applied to glass, which might be as small as one-millionth of an inch. The technique was known as the ‘color gauge.’
She left General Electric in 1963 after nearly five decades of service. She pursued her passion for gardening in retirement, participating in various horticulture experiments.

Major Projects of Katharine Burr Blodgett

Katie’s greatest contribution was the creation of a precise and accurate system for measuring transparent objects. She produced non-reflective glass coated with many layers of an oily film developed by her mentor using the same approach. In addition, she was successful in obtaining eight patents during her lifetime.

Achievements & Awards

Katherine Burr Blodgett received the distinguished ‘Achievement Award’ from the famous ‘American Association of University Women’ in 1945 for her position as a female scientist.

In 1951, she received the ‘Garvan-Olin Medal,’ which is given to women chemists to “recognize remarkable scientific performance, leadership, and contribution to chemistry.”

In 1951, she was inducted into the ‘US Chamber of Commerce”s list of 15 outstanding women.’

Personal History and Legacy

Katherine Burr Blodgett did not marry and instead spent her entire life pursuing her passion for 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.

Estimated net worth

The estimated net worth of Katharine Burr Blodgett is unknown.


Katherine Blodgett was an amateur actor who performed in plays put on by the Schenectady theatre group.