Oral history interview with Elkan Blout

Oral history interview with Elkan Blout

  • 1991-May-30 (First session)
  • 2002-Sep-13 (Second session)
  • 2002-Nov-22 (Third session)

Elkan R. Blout begins the interview with a description of his family and childhood. Growing up in Manhattan as an only child, Blout was cared for by his parents, aunts, and uncles. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, in the Bronx, earning marks that were high enough to skip three grades. Blout was still too young to attend college when he graduated, so he enrolled in the Philips Exeter Academy. The school was tough both scholastically and socially, but he made it through by attending his classes regularly, and playing bridge. After a year at Exeter, Blout attended Princeton University, becoming one of only twelve Jewish students accepted in 1935. As a Jewish student, Blout struggled against discrimination from both the University and the students. He graduated in 1939, and married Joan E. Dreyfus that same year.

In 1942, Blout received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University. He then accepted a fellowship at Harvard University, where he worked with Louis Feiser and R. B. Woodward. After a year, Edwin H. Land offered Blout a position at the Polaroid Company. At Polaroid, he helped develop the instant photographic process and the color translating microscope. At the same time, he received a research grant to study synthetic polypeptides, and established a spectroscopy laboratory at Children's Hospital of Boston. In 1961, Blout left Polaroid for more academic pursuits at Harvard Medical School. During his long, fruitful relationship with Harvard University, Blout has done much to improve both Harvard's Medical School and Harvard's School of Public Health. In 1984, Blout divorced Joan Dreyfus and married Gail Ferris. In 1991, Blout became the senior science advisor for the Food and Drug Administration. Blout concludes the interview by expressing gratitude for the John Philips Award, which he was awarded in 1998.

Place of interview
Original file type PDF, MP3
  • 64 pages
Rights In Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Permitted
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Related URL
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

Physical location


Cite as

Blout, E. R. (Elkan Rogers), interviewed by James J. Bohning in Harvard School of Public Health on November 22, 2002. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0263. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/k35695249.

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Transcript (Published Version)

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

9 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads