Nicolaas Bloembergen

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Nicolaas Bloembergen
File:Nicolaas Bloembergen 1981.jpg
Bloembergen in 1981
Born (1920-03-11) March 11, 1920 (age 103)
Dordrecht, Netherlands
Residence United States
Citizenship Netherlands
United States
Fields Applied physics
Institutions University of Arizona
Alma mater Leiden University
University of Utrecht
Doctoral advisor Cornelis Jacobus Gorter
Other academic advisors Edward Purcell
Doctoral students Peter Pershan
Michael Downer
Yuen-Ron Shen
Eli Yablonovitch
Known for Laser spectroscopy
Notable awards Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1958)
Stuart Ballantine Medal (1961)
National Medal of Science (1974)
Lorentz Medal (1978)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1981)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1983)
Dirac Medal (1983)

Nicolaas Bloembergen (born March 11, 1920) is a Dutch-American physicist and Nobel laureate. He was born in Dordrecht, where his father was a chemical engineer and executive.[1]


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.[1]

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.[1]

While studying at Harvard, Bloembergen also worked part-time as a graduate research assistant for Purcell at the MIT Radiation Laboratory.[1]

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Nobel Foundation Nicolaas Bloembergen
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  3. OSC Faculty Nicolaas Bloembergen
  4. World Scientific. Journal of Nonlinear Optical Physics & Materials. Journal Editorial Board.
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External links