Photo of Elkan R. Blout

Elkan R. Blout

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his pioneering studies of protein conformation and devotion to the scientific enterprise of this Nation.

During his career, chemist Elkan Blout pursued research in both biomedical laboratories and at major companies — sometimes at the same time.

In the 1930s, the Polaroid Corporation was focused on developing polarized headlights for use in automobiles. When Blout began working for Polaroid in 1943, the company switched gears.

At Polaroid, Blout led a team to produce photographic dyes and create a new color developing process, leading to the production of instant, color photography.

According to his biography for the National Academy of Sciences, Blout said, “To the scientific parents of this brainchild, myself included, it was all very wonderful and beautiful.”

During that time, Blout also worked at Harvard University, researching peptides and polypeptides. In the 1960s, he left Polaroid, where he was vice president and general manager of research, to pursue his academic interests full-time.

Blout became dean for academic affairs at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1978. In 1990, Blout changed paths again and became a senior adviser for science for the FDA.

By Rachel Warren