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Samuel E. Blum
Born August 28, 1920(1920-08-28)
New York, New York
Nationality United States
Fields Chemistry, Physics
Alma mater Rutgers University, 1942, 1950
UCLA, 1944
Notable awards Induction to National Inventors Hall of Fame, 2002
OSA Awards - R.W. Wood Prize, 2004

Samuel E. Blum (born August 28, 1920, New York) is an American chemist and physicist. He was a researcher at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, working for government and private companies. He worked with semiconductor materials, which was his specialization until his retirement from IBM Watson Research Center in 1990. Among his eleven patents, the patent on far ultraviolet surgical and dental procedures was a significant contribution to the development of LASIK eye surgery. For this innovation, he was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2002) and received the R.W. Wood Prize (2004) from the OSA (Optical Society of America).



Blum was born in New York in 1920. His parents were immigrants from Ukraine who came to U.S. partly for economic opportunities and partly to avoid pogroms. His father (Emil Blum) came to US in 1915 when he was 20, and the mother (Eva Blum) came in 1914 when she was 15. They were married in 1918. After Blum’s birth, the family moved to Ferrer Colony and Modern School in Piscataway Township, New Jersey, a small town of about a hundred families, and summered in a shack. They went through winters in New York City, and he went to city schools. In 1930, when Blum became ten years old, his father received a World War I bonus, which allowed the family to build a permanent home in Piscataway Township. It was a small, self-sufficient country town, that did not have amenities such as electricity and city water. The family had a small farm of a few hundred chickens. Besides gardening and harvesting eggs, Blum’s father worked as a printer at a law book publisher, Shepherd’s Citations in New York. Blum’s childhood was not affluent, but he made a farming life and could afford his education. The Great Depression of the 1930s did not hit the family hard. They even purchased a new car in 1936.

Blum’s childhood can be characterized by the atmosphere of the town where he grew up and of the family. The Ferrer Colony where Blum spent most of his childhood was a community that respected freedom of children as long as they did not interfere with other people. In such environment, Blum grew up with a freedom of choice and sense of responsibility. The family were non-observant Jews, but anti-Semitism slightly influenced Blum’s childhood. His father was a patriotic man and served in US Army for World War I. While his parents were not opponents of war, Blum identified himself as a pacifist. The family was politically aware but not active. Also the family, including Blum, enjoyed music, especially classics.

He married Flora Manoff, which ended in divorce. The children of the marriage were a son Joseph Emil, and two daughters, Dena and Bessie.


After Blum settled in Piscataway Township, he enrolled in Ferrer Colony and Modern School 6th grade. It was a small school of two rooms and two teachers. For 7th and 8th grade, he went to New Market School. He finished his elementary school education in 1934. After that, he attended Roosevelt Junior High School and New Brunswick High School, from which he graduated in 1938.

In 9th grade, he received a library card from Nelson Library in Rutgers University. The access to books promoted his interest in academia greatly. His love for this library continued from 9th grade to his undergraduate studies and graduate studies in Rutgers University. Along with school, Blum had jobs. In his high school senior year, he worked 25 hours a week in a grocery store and New Brunswick Book shop. He has worked as a bus boy and a waiter in the Borscht Belt.

He enrolled in Rutgers University for his undergraduate studies in 1938. He did not receive state scholarship, and the tuition was a financial burden. Yet, he could raise half of the tuition, and his father paid for the other half of the tuition. He was chemistry major, which required tough curriculum. He could only take several electives, which were physiology, biochemistry, sewage and water treatment, and music. His favorite professor was Caspar William Rieman III, a chemistry professor. The school work was predominant part of his college life. He neither played in a sports team nor was engaged in a fraternity. He was in ROTC for two years. In his senior year, he got a job at NYA (National Youth Administration), a New Deal agency which operated as part of WPA (Works Progress Administration). The work was about routine chemical soil analysis, which was his first job to be related to his academic field. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1942. Some of his education was part of his naval training. After his graduation, he applied to Patrol Torpedo (PT) program of U.S. Navy in an effort to take more active in the war. Instead, he got commissioned in 1943 and was sent to UCLA to study meteorology. He graduated in 1944 as the number one forecaster in the class of 200 students. He served as a meteorologist for Navy. As part of his commission, he also went to gas warfare school in 1944. Also he was trained in naval justice school for a month to do courts martial. After the war ended, research and development industry was starting to open up, so he decided to continue his academics in a graduated school. In addition, his father, who was an educated man in Soviet Union, encouraged Blum to pursue further studies. He finished his service in 1946 and went to Rutgers University for graduate studies. His first choice was California Institute of Technology. However his mother was terminally ill, so he went to Rutgers University and commuted from his home. He graduated and received his Ph.D degree in 1950.

Scientific work



During World War II, he had jobs that supported the war. After his graduation from Rutgers University in 1942, he was not drafted because he held a job in defense industry. He was working for U.S. Rubber at a TNT (Trinitrotoluene) plant in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. After that, he joined start up crew and started a new TNT factory in the Deer Valley, which signaled his future career as an industrial inventor. He worked for TNT for about a year and a half. When he got commissioned, he served as a meteorologist at Naval Air Station, Floyd Bennett, Brooklyn, New York City, at New York University as a part of Navy Weather Bureau research project on Storm Tracks of the Northern Hemisphere, and at Fleet Weather Central, Kodiak, Alaska. Then he requested to serve on a ship to figure out whether he wanted to be a regular Navy. He served on an aircraft carrier, the Badoing Straits (CVE 116) as a weatherman and then as a senior officer.

Blum’s scientific career started after the war ended. Upon finishing his graduate studies, he worked for a small paint manufacturer in California for six months. After that, he worked in physical chemical research at Battelle Memorial Institute, where he developed underwater piling camera for detecting deterioration and then specialized in compound semiconductors, especially GaAs. His significant contribution was in the first preparation of large, single-crystal gallium arsenide of high purity and high mobility. In 1959, he became a physicist at IBM Research Division Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York. In IBM, he continued his work in semiconductor research. Specifically he contributed to the invention of the injection laser and to the development of light-emitting diodes. In total, he issued 11 patents while he was working at IBM. List of the patents are provided below. He worked as a physicist for IBM for 31 years and retired in 1990. He is a member of honorary chemical society called Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Electrochemical Society, and Physical Chemical Society.

Notable invention

His most notable invention is the patent on far ultraviolet surgical and dental procedures, which provided the laser technology that is central in LASIK (Laser in Situ Keratomi-leusis) surgery. There were two co-inventors, chemist Rangaswamy Srinivasan and physicist James Wynne. The patent was filed in December, 1982 and was issued on November 15, 1988. The contribution of this technology to LASIK has brought 20/20 vision and freedom from eyeglasses and contact lenses to millions of people.

It was luck that they discovered the use of laser beams for surgical purposes. In 1981, Blum and his team were experimenting with short-pulse, ultraviolet lasers. After Thanksgiving, Srinivasan brought leftover turkey on which he and Blum experimented their UV laser. The laser beam cut the cartilage with great precision. Excimer lasers, pulsed ultraviolet beams, do not generate heat, which is normally generated by other kinds of lasers and leaves scar tissue. Instead, Excimer lasers break chemical bonds and separate cells without damaging the tissues around them. This technology is very useful in surgery on delicate parts of the body. In particular, it allows reshapeing the curve of cornea without scarring and correcting vision.

The abstract of the patent No. 4,784,135, far ultraviolet surgical and dental procedures, is like the following.

“A method and apparatus are described for photoetching organic biological matter without requiring heat as the dominant etching mechanism. Far-ultraviolet radiation of wavelengths less than 200 nm are used to selectively remove organic biological material, where the radiation has an energy fluence sufficiently great to cause ablative photodecomposition. Either continuous wave or pulse radiation can be used, a suitable ultraviolet light source being an ArF excimer laser having an output at 193 nm. The exposed biological material is ablatively photodecomposed without heating or damage to the rest of the organic material. Medical and dental applications include the removal of damaged or unhealthy tissue from bone, removal of skin lesions, cutting or sectioning healthy tissue, and the treatment of decayed teeth.” (The United States Patent Office Full-Text and Image Database)

The technology became controversial in 1988. There was some legal dispute between two ophthalmic surgeons, Dr. Francis A. L'Esperance and Dr. Stephen L. Trokel, over the first use of this technology for eye problem correction. Yet, that did not threaten IBM’s holding of fundamental technology.

For the contribution to the development of LASIK, Blum and his co-inventors were inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002. They also received R.W. Wood Prize from OSA(Optical Society of America) in 2004.

Later years

After his retirement in 1990, Blum became a professor at Rutgers University. He is now living in Cambridge, MA.


  • Blum, Samuel E. Interview with Samuel E. Blum. By G. Kurt Piehler. New Brunswick History Department: Oral History Archives of World War II. Rutgers University. 8 Jul. 1994. 10 Nov. 2008. [1]
  • United States. Patent Office. “United States Patent 4,784,135 Blum, et al.” 15 Nov. 1988 USPTO Full-Text and Image Database. United States Patent Office. 10 Nov. 2008. [2]
  • United States. Patent Office. “Search Results on “IN/blum-samuel-e” USPTO Full-Text and Image Database. United States Patent Office. 17 Nov. 2008. [3]
  • Srinivasan Inducted Into Inventors Hall of Fame Chemical & Engineering News. 3 Mar. 2003. 63
  • Authors IBM Journal, Jan. 1963. 97.
  • From lasers to LEGOs: Dr. James Wynne, IBM innovators on Innovation Inspired. IBM Corporation, Oct. 2005. 11.
  • Hall of Fame/ inventor profile, Samuel Blum National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. 15 Nov. 2008 [4]
  • 2004 OSA Awards, OSA Today Optics & Photonics News. Jul. 2004. 14
  • Edmund L. Andrews. Patents; 2 in Dispute Over Concept of Eye Laser The New York Times. 19 Nov. 1988. 17 Nov. 2008 [5]


  • US3,628,998 (PDF version) (1971-12-21) Blum, et al., Method for growth of a mixed crystal with controlled composition.  
  • US3,615,205, (PDF version) (1971-10-26) Blum, et al., Method for the synthesis and growth of high purity iii-v semiconductor compositions in bulk.  
  • US3,642,443 (PDF version) (1972-02-15) Blum, et al., Group iii-v semiconductor twinned crystals and their preparation by solution growth.  
  • US4,239,789 (PDF version) (1980-12-16) Blum, et al., Maskless method for electroless plating patterns.  
  • US4,414,059 (PDF version) (1983-11-08) Blum, et al., Far UV patterning of resist materials.  
  • US4,451,503 (PDF version) (1984-05-29) Blum, et al., Photo deposition of metals with far UV radiation.  
  • US4,606,935 (PDF version) (1986-08-19) Blum, Process and apparatus for producing high purity oxidation on a semiconductor substrate.  
  • US4,568,632 (PDF version) (1986-02-04) Blum, et al., Patterning of polyimide films with far ultraviolet light.  
  • US4,674,442 (PDF version) (1987-06-23) Blum, Process and apparatus for producing high purity oxidation on a semiconductor substrate.  
  • US4,784,135 (PDF version) (1988-11-15) Blum, et al., Far ultraviolet surgical and dental procedures.  

External links


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