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For almost a century before the founding of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), analysis of chemical elements through their emission spectra had been the subject of studies in Europe. It was well known that each chemical element or combination of elements has distinctive spectra, either by emission or absorption, that are characteristic of the element as the fingerprints of humans. Yet in that time practically none of the spectra of the elements had been completely described, although their importance, both theoretical and practical, was increasing more rapidly than the knowledge of them advanced. Upon his arrival at NBS as a young laboratory assistant in 1914, Dr. William F. Meggers began the measurement of wavelengths of light and their application to an understanding of the spectra of chemical elements. By the sheer weight of accumulated evidence he was to establish standards of spectrographic measurement that were to gain worldwide acceptance. [From: Measures for Progress by R.C. Cochrane, pp. 247-248]

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