He received his Ph.D. degree from University of Leiden in 1948; while pursuing his PhD at Harvard, Bloembergen also worked part-time as a graduate research assistant for Edward Mills Purcell at the MIT Radiation Laboratory He became a professor at Harvard University.
Bloembergen enrolled in 1938 at the University of Utrecht to study physics. Bloembergen left the war ravaged Netherlands in 1945 to pursue graduate studies at Harvard University. Six weeks before his arrival, Harvard Professor Edward M. Purcell (along with his graduate students Torrey and Pound) discovered nuclear magnetic resonance. Bloembergen was hired to develop a first NMR machine. While at Harvard he enjoyed classes from Schwinger, Van Vleck and Kemble. His thesis Nuclear Magnetic Relaxation was submitted in Leiden, where he passed qualifying criteria. After a brief postdoctoral appointment with C. J. Gorter in the Netherlands, he joined Harvard he was named a junior fellow of Society of Fellows in 1949 and Associate Professor in 1951.
He was awarded the Lorentz Medal in 1978. Nicolaas 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 serves on the University of Arizona faculty.
Bloembergen belongs to prolific J. J. Thomson academic lineage tree, following in footsteps of other Nobel Laureates beginning with Lord Rayleigh (Physics Nobel Prize in 1904) and J. J. Thomson (Nobel 1906), and continued with Ernest Rutherford (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1908), Owen Richardson (Physics Nobel, 1918) and finally Bloembergen's advisor, Edward Purcell (Physics Nobel 1952). Prof. Bloembergen is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists His other influences included John Van Vleck (Physics Nobel 1977) and Percy Bridgman (Physics Nobel 1946).