Optical connections: Anti-reflected glory

Ophthalmic lenses
David Baker focuses on the legacy of noted scientist Katherine Burr Blodgett whose work created the anti-reflective lens technology which has become ubiquitous today

It is hard to think of another invention that is not only used every day for spectacle lenses, but revolutionised the whole of observational optics and just about every other field that relies on optical image-making. That invention is surely the anti-reflection (AR) coating. One would think that the inventor would be famous; even that their name would be given to the coating (actually, it was – sort of). But no one has ever ordered a pair of ‘Blodgett’ coated lenses.

The name belongs to a remarkable American scientist, Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979), who became, among other achievements, the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in physics from the University of Cambridge. Although her upbringing was comfortable financially, her life began in tragedy as her father, a patent lawyer for General Electric (GE), was shot and killed shortly before her birth by a burglar who subsequently hanged himself. George R Blodgett and Katharine Burr had an elder son, also George, who was to disappear while piloting a light aircraft over the jungles of Costa Rica in the 1950s.

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