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AD-X2 Controversy The AD-X2 battery-testing controversy, which began in 1948, was caused by the testing of a material - a battery additive - marketed under the name Battery AD-X2.” This product when added to a lead-acid battery allegedly improved its performance and, under some circumstances, could presumably revive a dead battery. This incident resulted in congressional hearings, newspaper headlines, and charges of Bureau bias against the little guy.

Aeronautic Instruments The Aeronautic Instruments Photographic collection depicts the instruments developed by the aeronautic instruments program at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). Included are photographs of altimeters, airspeed indicators, tachometers, and other aeronautical instruments.

  Airplane Detection Apparatus
  Airplane Research World War I
  Alaska Pipeline

Anechoic Chamber The Sound Building, dedicated to the study of acoustic phenomena, featured a large anechoic chamber. It was begun in 1965 and occupied early in 1968. It achieved its quiet because it was lined with large fiberglass wedges paired in a pattern that absorbed more than 99% of the sound originating within it. The chamber was used for microphone calibrations, loudspeaker measurements, sound level meter calibration, noise measurement, psychoacoustic experiments, radiation and scattering experiments, and general use when a quiet environment was needed.

Aneroid Tachometers The first actual war-research agency of World War I was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), established by Congress in March 1915 to initiate and direct scientific studies in problems of flight. The Bureau of Standards, represented on the Committee by Dr. Stratton, was asked to begin investigations at once of the physical factors in aeronautic design. Many of the aviation problems subsequently assigned by NACA to the Navy and War Departments were, since they lacked research facilities, turned over to the Bureau as it "became the scientific laboratory for the two military services." All of the altimeters, airspeed indicators, tachometers, and other aeronautical instruments that came to the Bureau for examination and testing were based on European prototypes. Many were still in an elementary stage and underwent considerable modification in the laboratories prior to their adoption as standard by the U.S. Army and Navy [From Measures for Progress, by Rexmond Cochrane, pp. 159-160, 181.]

Appliance Efficiency This collection consists of images documenting the testing of household appliances at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). Items tested included ranges, laundry appliances, and water heaters. NBS developed test procedures to calculate household appliance efficiency and operating costs to help the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) meet its responsibilities under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (1975).

Atomic Clock This collection is comprised of images documenting the development of the atomic clocks that were part of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Atomic Time System. The NBS atomic clock program sought to provide a spectroscopic standard capable of being used as a new atomic standard of time and frequency to replace the mean solar day and so change the arbitrary units of time to atomic ones.

  Atomic Physics

Automated Manufacturing Research Facility In 1979 National Bureau of Standards (NBS) scientists realized the significance to American industry of a factory in which every part could be made automatically, with no rejects and little scrap; thus was born the idea for an Automated Manufacturing Research Laboratory (AMRF). The concept had several components: careful analysis of the manufacturing process to reduce errors in materials treatment to acceptable levels; generation of manufacturing protocols involving robotics and humans within a generic system; and development of interfacing methods to permit the use of optimum efficiency in the choice of equipment, control computers, and software.

Automobile Research This collection documents the research at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) on automobiles in the first half of the twentieth century. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of cars registered in the United States leaped from 9 to 26.5 million. NBS research on the automobile and airplane began as an effort to conserve the Nation's supply of gasoline and oil.


Award Winners High quality work by National Bureau of Standards / National Institute of Standardards and Technology staff is recognized every year by awards from outside groups, from the Federal government, and from the Bureau/NIST itself. Images include 1992 R&D 100 entry forms accompanied by photographs of product and principal developer(s).

Baseball Experiment - Lyman Briggs
  Blind Landing of Aircraft
Building and Fire Research The Fire Research Photographic Collection documents work that began with funds appropriated by Congress in 1913 so that the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) could study fire resistant building materials. Fires were claiming thousands of lives annually in the U.S., with property losses exceeding $250 million. In a joint undertaking with the National Fire Protection Association and the Underwriters' Laboratories, NBS aimed at a thorough study of the behavior and safety of building materials in various types of construction under all possible fire conditions.
  Building Codes Research
  Building Structural Testing

Boulder Campus This collection consists of images documenting the Boulder, Colorado campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Congress endorsed the relocation of National Bureau of Standards (NBS) radio research to Boulder. The new location for radio work met three important criteria: it was nearly free of electromagnetic interference for radio communications, featured long lines of sight, and was near a good university-level electrical engineering department. Construction on the Boulder site began in 1951, and on September 14, 1954, President Eisenhower led a distinguished group to Colorado to dedicate the new Boulder NBS laboratories.

Camera for Photographing Eclipse
  Capitol (U.S.) Dome Exterior


CARB - Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology The Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology Photographic Collection (CARB) contains photos from the center’s research in crystal structures of proteins; structure of proteins in solution; modeling of protein structures, using a large, dedicated computer; characterization of protein properties, using the methods of physical biochemistry; and production of proteins in quantity by means of molecular biology.

Cement Testing In 1911 the cement laboratories of the Bureau National Bureau of Standards (NBS) began testing cement purchased for Government construction projects. The sampling required over 500,000 physical tests for fineness, specific gravity, tensile strength, and time of setting. These tests, however, did little more than determine whether the samples met current Government specifications, and in many cases the specifications were far from clear or consistent. Early in 1912, NBS called manufacturers and Federal engineers to the first Portland Cement Conference, in order to consider preparation of a single standard specification. As a result, a Presidential Executive order was issued on April 30, 1912, declaring that all Portland cement purchased by the Government was to conform to the specification agreed upon.

Ceramics This collection contains photos of early ceramics research carried out at the National Bureau of Standards. With the U.S. entry into World War I, the Bureau became involved in redesigning the shortcomings in the Allies’ new high-powered planes. Before the war ended the Bureau’s electrical and ceramic divisions had devised a much improved arrangement of engine circuits and produced a better type of porcelain for aviation spark plugs and the liners of rocket motors. By 1939, the Bureau was involved in work on porcelain-coated metals. Various items were placed in service in homes and their performance was compared with that predicted by laboratory tests.

Charters of Freedom At the request of the Librarian of Congress in 1939, an investigation was undertaken by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to determine the best means of preserving the original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. On March 16, 1940, NBS recommended that the documents be placed in specially-constructed enclosures, that the air in the enclosures be replaced with a chemically inert gas, and that the enclosures be sealed. This project was interrupted by World War II and in 1945 the work resumed. The enclosures were designed with detectors to make sure air could not leak into them and with filters to protect the documents against radiation. An external lighting system was created to provide adequate light to view the documents.

  Circuit Printers for Flat and Cylindrical Surfaces

Colorimetry Colorimetry is the science behind the measurement of color. A variety of industries and interest groups pushed the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to standardize color at the beginning of the 20th Century. As early as 1912, to settle disputes at the time, a cottonseed oil firm and representatives of the butter and oleomargarine industries called on NBS for help with color grading of their products. This research opened up a whole new branch of physics for investigation.

Commercial Standards Images in this collection reflect the efforts of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to achieve standards for industry after World War I. Long advocated by the NBS, "the crusade for commercial standardization," became a three-pronged attack on waste in commerce and industry. It comprised standardization of business practices and of materials, machinery, and products; specifications to insure good quality of products; and simplification in variety of products. The culmination of the standardization program came in 1927 when then Department of Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover established the division of trade standards at the NBS. Its purpose was to consolidate Bureau activities relating to standards, extend to the commercial specification field the cooperative methods of simplified practice, and make more readily available to industry the results of the Federal Specifications Board. Where specifications formulated by industry up to that time had principally served the needs of individual industries, the commercial standards published by the trade standards division were to be specifications with industry-wide application. [from: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane].
  Compact apparatus for generating high pressure (1959)

Compasses, Inclinometers, and Thermometers During WWI, many of the aviation problems assigned by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to the Navy and War Departments were, since they lacked research facilities, turned over to the Bureau as it became the scientific laboratory for the two military services. All of the altimeters, airspeed indicators, tachometers, and other aeronautical instruments that came to the Bureau for examination and testing were based on European prototypes. Many were still in an elementary stage and underwent considerable modification in the laboratories prior to their adoption as standard by the U.S. Army and Navy [From Measures for Progress, by Rexmond Cochrane, pp. 159-160, 181.] In the early 1900s, the Bureau's Heat and Thermometry section acquired thermometers from France and Germany as working standards. The Bureau was therefore prepared to certify almost any precision thermometer used in scientific work, most low-temperature engineering and industrial thermometers, and all ordinary commercial thermometers.

Computer Security This collection contains images of NIST’s early work in computer security. Instructed by the Computer Security Act of 1987 to receive and review Federal security plans for unclassified but sensitive information, NIST and the National Security Agency immediately initiated the Computer Security and Privacy Plans (CSPP) review project. The team found considerable uncertainty among the agencies regarding the most effective means to provide for secure computer operations; thus, team recommendations focused on education.

Constant of Gravitation This collection contains photographs of the scales and other instruments used for the determination of the constant of gravitation at the National Bureau of Standards between 1924 and 1942. Paul R. Heyl of the Mechanics and Sound Division made his first redetermination of the constant of gravitation (G) in 1930. In 1942, Heyl and Peter Chrzanowski published the results of a new determination of the constant of gravitation made with an improved torsion balance. Only slight improvement in precision over the 1930 result was achieved.

Cryogenics The National Bureau of Standards’ (NBS) interest in cryogenics (the production of very low temperatures and the properties of materials at those temperatures) dates back to 1904, when a plant for making and maintaining liquid and solid hydrogen, the invention of British physicist James Dewar, was exhibited at the St. Louis Fair in 1903 and purchased by NBS. The images in the Cryogenics Photographic Collection document experiments and equipment from the 1930s to the late 1950s. b

  Currency Counter
Decremeter 1912-1914
  Deep Ocean Sampler
  Determination of Electrostatic to Electromagnetic Units
  Diamond Anvil Cell
  Diet Study Using Liquid Chromatography
  DNA Prototyping
Electron Physics
Elliot Richardson, Secretary of Commerce, Visit to NBS This collection contains photos taken of the Elliot Richardson, 23rd Department of Commerce Secretary, during his visit to the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) as part of a year-long celebration of NBS’s 75th year of service to the nation.
Emery Testing Machine This collection contains photographs of the Emery Testing Machine, which was used to further NBS’ work in structural materials. Planning expansion of both the Bureau’s work in structural materials and that of the former Geological Survey group, NBS asked Congress for new mammoth testing machines and a special building to house them. The funds were approved and NBS obtained a 1-million-pound crushing machine for compression tests of brick, stone, cement, and concretes, another of 230,000-pound capacity, a 100,000-pound universal (compression and tension) machine, and a specially designed 2,300,000-pound Emery universal testing machine, for breakdown and exhaustion tests of girders and other large structural members.

Evenson Highest Frequency National Bureau of Standards (NBS) researchers Kenneth Evenson, Donald Jennings and Russell Petersen successfully accomplished the highest direct frequency measurement ever made (over 520 terahertz) in a joint project with the Canadian National Research Council in 1972.

Federal Basis for Weights and Measures Report This collection represents graphics and images from NBS Circular 593 “The Federal Basis for Weights and Measures: A Historical Review of Federal Legislative Effort, Statutes, and Administrative Action in the Field of Weights and Measures in the United States,” issued June 5, 1958. The publication presents a largely chronological review, for the period 1776-1956, of congressional efforts and accomplishments in the general weights and measures area, with particular emphasis on units and standards. In its entirety the Circular presents a connected and reasonably comprehensive story of the Federal contribution to the legislative basis for weights and measures administration in the United States.

Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (1770-1843) was the first superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, holding that office from 1807 to 1818 and again from 1832 until his death in November 1843. In 1836, the Office of Weights and Measures was established in the U.S. Coast Survey and became the National Bureau of Standards in 1901. This photographic collection contains images of Hassler’s instruments, a monument dedicated to his life and work, and portraits of Hassler and his family.

First Annual Science Fair at NBS Boulder This collection is comprised of photographs and a program from the First Annual Science Fair held at the laboratories of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Boulder, CO, on April 28, 1956. More than 1,300 visitors viewed more than 200 exhibits by Colorado junior and senior high school students.

Founding of the National Bureau of Standards This collection documents the founding of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and includes the letter requesting the establishment of a national standardizing bureau from the Secretary of the Treasury, the first payroll records, and photographs of early members of the NBS staff.

Gage Blocks

Gaithersburg Campus Congress approved relocation of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) from Washington, DC to Gaithersburg, MD in the 1950s. The new building would be dedicated by President Johnson on November 15, 1966. Secretary John T. Connor would preside, and the formal ceremonies would be followed by a special luncheon. The next two days would feature a symposium on Technology and World Trade, followed by an open house for the general public. This collection includes: Construction of the Gaithersburg Campus Photographic Collection; Gaithersburg Dedication Symposium Photographic Collection; and the Newton Apple Tree Photographic Collection. This collection is restricted to on-campus viewing.

  Gas Meter Testing
  Graphite Multidisk Electron Beam Calorimeter
Heat Division Staff Photos This collection contains photographs of employees from the Heat Division’svarious sections. With responsibility for the temperature scale, the Heat Division was deeply involved in basic thermometry research, with activities in extending the range of temperature attainment and measurement. In addition, the division did a great deal on the acquisition, analysis, and methods for the measurement of thermodynamic data. It was one of the leading scientific divisions at the National Bureau of Standards.
Heroult Furnace

High Voltage Laboratory In 1938, Congress approved funds for the construction of a new high voltage laboratory building on the campus of the National Bureau of Standards. At a cost of $315,000, the new laboratory, with a 2 million-volt generator for high voltage work and a 1,400,000-volt generator for X-ray studies, was completed late in 1940 . The collection’s images document the high voltage laboratory building’s interior and apparatus used in measurement experiments.

Hydraulics Laboratory In 1930, Congress authorized the construction of the National Hydraulic Laboratory at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) campus. The mission of the laboratory was to make determinations of fundamental data useful in hydraulic research and engineering, including laboratory research relating to the behavior and control of river and harbor waters, the study of hydraulic structures and water flow, and the development and testing of hydraulic instruments and accessories.

Hydrocarbon Standard Samples This collection contains photographs of hydrocarbon standards research during the 1940s at the National Bureau of Standards.
  Hydrometer Testing

Instrument Shops This collection includes images from the founding of National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1901 to the late 1970s. The Instrument Shops designed, constructed, and repaired high-precision instruments and auxiliary equipment for the use of NBS scientists. Today the Instrument Shops are known as the NIST Fabrication Technology Group.

Jacob Rabinow Jacob Rabinow came to the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1938 as a junior mechanical engineer. Rabinow rose to the position of Chief of the Electro-Mechanical Ordnance Division where he played critical roles in such important NBS World War II achievements as the development of the proximity fuse and the Bat guided missile. Rabinow returned to NBS in 1972 as Chief Research Engineer of the National Engineering Laboratory. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

  Jefferson's Address 1790

JILA (Boulder) In the early 1960s, with the development of space science brought about by rocket and satellite capabilities, and by research in thermonuclear power, interest in the behavior of very hot gases and plasmas had grown substantially. However, the relevant fields of physics were poorly understood. As a result, progress was being held up in the fields of space exploration and astrophysics, thermonuclear power and plasma physics, rocket re-entry problems, ultra-high temperature research, and atmospheric research. Lacking were precise measurement techniques, standards, and basic data on the fundamental properties of the hot gas or plasma. The formation of a wholly new organization was to emphasize these areas. The organization was called the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) and was located on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, CO.

Laser Trapping 1991

Leather Research The Leather Research Photographic Collection consists of images of National Bureau of Standards (NBS) employees engaged in leather research during periods ranging from 1919 to the early 1960s. After the outbreak of World War I, leather became scarce and the search for substitutes began In the 1950s, NBS studied the pore structure of leather and the moisture content of leather as a function of humidity at different temperatures. The study was then extended to development of a new method for the determination of water-vapor permeability in leathers.

Library at Old NBS Site This collection contains photographs of the library at the former site of the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, DC – including circulation and reference service areas, journal shelves, study tables, the reading area and selected periodicals area, and the card catalog.
  Linewidth Standards August 1987
  Long Range Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Low Cost Housing This collection documents the work done by NBS in testing low cost materials for housing. In July 1970, National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Director Lewis M. Branscomb assigned to James R. Wright, Chief of the Building Research Division, the additional responsibility of cooperating with the Program Office to coordinate NBS efforts with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Malcolm Baldrige Awards Portrait File This collection contains photographs of the annual national award given by the President of the United States for industrial excellence. The award was named for Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige who died in 1987. The collection also includes photographs of the Malcolm 'Mac' Baldrige National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship.

Mass Standards The Mass Standards Photographic Collection documents the kilograms and other mass standards held by NIST. These Prototype Kilograms are representative of the Kilogramme des Archives developed after the Treaty of the Meter was signed in 1875. The Kilogramme des Archives is held by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France.

Metallurgy Division The Metallurgy Collection consists of images and publications related to the following NIST Archives collections: Aluminum from Clay, Studies of Metal Fatigue, Metallurgy Division, Metallurgy Research, Metallurgy Plating, and Prosthesis. The Metallurgy Division was established in 1913 for the purpose of testing railroad materials and technology and performing research in the chemical, physical, mechanical, and structural properties of metals. Since the reorganization of the Material Measurement Laboratory in 2012, the metallurgy program has been part of the Materials Science and Engineering Division.

  Metric Promotion

Miniature Radio Receivers and Transmitters The images in this collection record National Bureau of Standards (NBS) research on into miniature radio receivers and transmitters including a wrist watch transmitter conducted during the 1930s and 1940.

MSED Centennial Collections To celebrate the rich history and accomplishments of the Materials Science and Engineering Division, including 100 years of metallurgy in the Metallurgy Division and 100 years of polymers, including 50 years in the Polymers Division, these collections of historical photos and publications are presented as part of this timeline of significant MSED achievements.

National Bureau of Standards Employees Circa 1918 The collection contains individual identification photographs of NBS employees circa 1918. Each employee is shown with a number, presumably employee number. Accompanying documentation identifies employees by number and division.

National Bureau of Standards, Washington DC Campus, ca. 1905-1966 The National Bureau of Standards Washington, DC Campus (ca. 1905-1966) Photographic Collection consists of images documenting the former campus of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). The photographs contain include aerial and exterior views of the NBS buildings located on Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness St. circa 1919-1952. The Connecticut Avenue location remained the home of NBS until 1966, when the campus was moved to its current location in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Navigation Research The Navigation Research Photographic Collection documents navigation instruments and the methods used to develop them. Instruments include: a radio compass developed by Frederick A. Kolster that enabled a ship to establish its position by determining with high accuracy the direction of sending station signals; and a tuned reed course indicator used with a radio beacon that gave an aircraft pilot a visible indication of whether he was on course.

NBS Extracurricular Activities The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) sponsored many extracurricular activities for its staff and researchers. This collection documents activities such as annual picnics and field days between the 1930s and 1980s. This collection is restricted to on-campus viewing

NBS-NIST Directors Collection This collection features photographs from the NIST archives and photos of the official painted portraits of directors of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


Neutron Activation Autoradiography The Reactor Radiation Division of the National Bureau of Standards and the Smithsonian Institution collaborated on a project to study by neutron induced autoradiography and gamma spectroscopy the works of painter Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938). This technique, undertaken in 1986, allowed the observation of multiple pigment applications beneath the surface of an oil painting, offering the art historian an unparalleled opportunity to observe the working method of an artist from the ground up.


NIST 2001 Centennial Images of various celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, previously known as the National Bureau of Standards. Photographic collections included:

  • NIST Centennial Gala and Policy Makers Day
  • NIST Centennial Gala, 2001
  • Centennial History and Reunion Day 1
  • Centennial History and Reunion Day 2
  • Centennial Lobby and Information Center
  • Centennial Kickoff
  • NIST at 100 : Foundations for Progress

NIST Museum Artifacts This collection of artifact images includes some of the scientific instruments held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Museum. The NIST Museum showcases many of NIST’s historic achievements with exhibits that spotlight some of the agency’s notable scientists and artifacts of importance to the history of metrology. Further information is available at the NIST Virtual Museum at The site features details on various exhibits in the physical museum as well as unique virtual exhibits.

NIST User Facilities Brochure The collection contains images and graphics from an October 1988 brochure highlighting user research facilities at NIST. The photographs are of researchers using facilities such as the Small-Angle Neutron Scattering Facility and the Large-Scale Structures Testing Facility, along with images of the instruments used in many of the facilities including the Acoustic Anechoic Chamber.

  Nylon Rope Strength Test
Office of Technical Information and Publications
Office of Technical Information and Publications Various photographs of the Office of Technical Information and Publications in professional and casual settings. W. Reeves Tilley was Chief of the Office of Technical Information and Publication and supervised a section devoted to the staging of special events for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), publications-oriented sections that included editorial, redacting, photographic, and illustration capabilities, and a computer-assisted-printing section. His groups rendered assistance to all NBS staff members in preparing their work for publication. In addition, they prepared motion pictures on NBS projects, scheduled tours, interacted with the technical press, arranged conferences, and responded to queries from the public.

Optical Glass In the early 20th century glass for the optical systems of telescopes, microscopes, field glasses, navigation and surveying instruments, cameras, and similar instruments was expensive to make and had a limited market. Therefore, American optical firms imported their quality glass. World War I, however, abruptly cut off the supply of optical instruments and optical glass to the U.S. In 1914, The director of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) ordered furnaces and apparatus for the field laboratory in Pittsburgh, and set it to work studying the manufacture of optical glass. This collection of photos depicts glass operations at NBS from the 1920s to the 1940s, and beyond.

Ordnance from World War II The Ordnance WWII Photographic Collection illustrates the development of aerial ordnance at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) during World War II and beyond. NBS developed ordnance for both the Army and the Navy, which included radio proximity fuses for rockets and bombs, and guided missiles, including the “Bat,” the first fully automatic guided missile used successfully in combat. The Ordnance WWII Photographic Collection includes the smaller Bat Missile Photographic Collection.

Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915 The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was a world's fair that took place between February 20, 1915 and December 4, 1915 in the Marina District of San Francisco, CA. The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and the Smithsonian Institution created extensive exhibits for the exposition. Included in the exhibits were replica weights and measures of various sizes, and a miniature standard test railway car. This collection’s photographs document the interior of the exhibit hall with NBS displays and exhibits.

Paper Research Using funds provided by the Carnegie Foundation, National Bureau of Standards (NBS) scientists researched the permanence of Government writing papers, the preservation of records, and of library storage conditions. The investigation culminated in NBS's work on the preservation at the National Archives of the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Perspectives on Standards, Special Publication 467 The Perspectives on Standards Special Publication 467 Photographic Collection contains photos that reflect the activities and accomplishments of NBS in honor of its 75th anniversary. Some of the highlighted activities include: redetermination of the Newtonian constant of gravitation; development of a portable rubidium atomic clock; first intercomparison of X-ray standards between NBS and the British National Physical Laboratory in 1931; NBS collaboration with Soviet researchers to evaluate and characterize materials for potential use in magnetohydrodynamic systems; two balloon ascensions in 1934 and 1935 to collect information and data on the stratosphere; development of methods for measuring the energy use of major appliances; improvement of automobile combustion by obtaining better knowledge of fuels, ignition, lubrication, and carburetion; experimentation with solar collectors; investigations for the building and construction industry began in the 1920s; fire-resistance testing early in its history; work to determine why street light globes were blown away by high winds; development of the fastest general purpose, automatically sequenced electronic computer in operation in 1950; development of a robot manipulator that was controlled by a cerebellar model arithmetic computer; laid the cornerstone of the main NBS laboratory, Washington, D.C., in 1903.
Photoionization Mass Spectroscopy at NBS, 1964 to mid-1980's The Photoionization Mass Spectroscopy Photographic Collection contains photos of the NBS photoionization mass spectrometer constructed by Vernon Dibleler and R.M. Reese and reported in the Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards Vol. 68A (1964), p. 409. This instrument was one of the first of its type in the United States and was used by Dibeler and his collaborators, K.E. McCulloh and James Walker, for many pioneering studies of ionization phenomena in small molecules.
Photometric Standards One difficulty in establishing a uniform standard of light hinged on the use of the term "candlepower." The flaws that former NBS Director Edward B. Rosa's group found in the Hefner standard shortly after the establishment of the Bureau led him to propose a new standard for the electric lamp industry -- the mean value of a number of 16-candlepower commercial lamps -- and make this applicable to gas light as well as to electric light. When the value of this new standard "candle" proved to be only slightly greater than the unit maintained by the national laboratories of England and France, the Bureau proposed an adjustment of its own value looking to an international candle. The proposal was accepted, and in 1909 the new value, based on a simple relationship between the British Hefner unit, the French bougie decimale, and the carbon-filament unit maintained in Washington, became the standard for all photometric measurements in this country.
Photometry and Colorimetry Section The Photometry and Colorimetry Section Photographic Collection contains images of the activities in the Photometry and Colorimetry Section between 1947 and 1966. This collection is heavily documented by C.S. McCamy (former staff member of the Section) in response to a request from Al Parr (Chief, Optical Technology Division).
Physics Division Physics Division Photographs of Physics Division facilities, staff, and events.
  Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt
  Plumbing Code Research

Polymers Division Collection The Polymers Division Collection is comprised of images and publications related to the following NIST Archives collections: Dental Research, Plastics Research, and Rubber Research. The Polymers Division was established in 1962 from what had been the Organic and Fibrous Materials Division. Since the reorganization of the Material Measurement Laboratory in 2012, polymers research primarily resides in two divisions, the Materials Science and Engineering Division and the Biosystems and Biomaterials Division.

  Pressure Measurement

Project Tinkertoy Project Tinkertoy was the code-name for a development and proof of concept project undertaken by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to create a process for automated manufacture of electronic equipment and for demonstrating it on a pilot production line. While NBS’s modular design was not used directly in industry, the modular design and mechanized production concepts became the customary way of producing electronic equipment. This collection of images includes design models for the plant, plant machinery, and examples of the components produced.

Publications Photos This collection contains images from specific publications of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), specifically:

  • Cooperative Research Oportunities at NIST, Special Publication 763
  • Perspectives on Standards, NBS Special Publication 467
  • Special Publication 743, Research Report
  • Special Publication 761, Research Report
  • Special Publication 765, Research Report
  • Special Publication 770, Research Report
  • Special Publication 783, Research Report
  • Special Publication 797 Research Report
  • Special Publication 809, Research Report
  • Annual Report FY1975
  • Dimensions October 1975
  • Scientific and Engineering Work of the Government, Edward Bennett Rosa's Charts, 1910-1919
Pyrometry The Pyrometry Photographic Collection contains images of pyrometry research at NBS between 1905 and 1920. By 1921 pyrometric control stations in heavy industry had become “nearly as intricate as a telephone central station,” a far cry from the days when high temperatures were estimated by visual observation. At the request of the industry, NBS made a compilation of almost 20 years of its research data on the industrial applications of pyrometry. The original printing of 2,000 copies of the 326-page manual (“Pyrometric practice” by Foote, Fairchild, Harrison (1921); NBS Annual Report 1921, p. 92), the first book on the subject in this country, was exhausted within 2 months.
  Radio Propagation Research

Radioactivity Measurement Laboratory Research in radium began at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in December 1913 when a phial containing 20.28 milligrams of pure radium arrived from abroad. It was a certified equivalent to the International Radium Standard at Sevres, and a cover communication described its comparison with another quantity of radium salts prepared at Vienna and accepted as a second standard. NBS served hospitals and physicians by analyzing their radium salts against the international standard.

Radiosonde In the late 1930s Harry Diamond, Wilbur Hinman, and Francis Dunmore undertook research to devise a practical system of radiometeorography for the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics. A year after beginning construction of their unit, Diamond and his group sent up their first model radiosonde and demonstrated its effectiveness in transmitting continuous data on cloud height and thickness, temperature, pressure, humidity, and light intensity in the upper atmosphere.

  Rail Accidents
  Railway Test Car

Reagan Participation in Superconductivity Conference This collection documents President Ronald Reagan’s surprise visit to a Federal Conference on Commercial Applications of Superconductivity on July 28, 1987. The Federal government, he announced, should strive mightily to develop and commercialize the field of high-temperature superconductivity.

  Redefinition of the Meter

Reflecting Telescope The most ambitious undertaking in the history of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) glass plant was its casting of a 69.5-inch disk for the mirror of a large reflecting telescope. At the time, there were not more than 10 optical glass plants in the world, all abroad, capable of making such a disk. The images in this collection document the work to design and pour the disk.

  Refrigerants Research (Chlorofluorocarbons)
  Riefler Clock
Robotics The Robotics Photographic Collection contains images of the NIST robotics laboratory in the mid - 1970s. A major goal of the laboratory was to achieve intelligent control of machines, so that they would quickly and efficiently turn out work that consistently met design specifications.

Rubber Research Photographic Collection Until the rubber section was set up at the National Bureau of Standards circa 1911 there had been almost no rubber research in this country. The exhaustive testing of rubber products at the Bureau constituted some of the first real research in the field. Successive editions of the Bureau circular on testing rubber products that first appeared in 1912 became the bible of the industry. By the mid-twenties much of the Bureau work in rubber was concerned with tire construction, quality, care and use. By the late twenties testing extended to more basic research, including comparative studies of natural, reclaimed, and synthetic rubbers.

SEAC Computer Construction of the (Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC) began in the fall of 1948 in the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Electronics Division by a group under Samuel N. Alexander, and with active collaboration by members of the Machine Development Laboratory. NBS was positioned to build the SEAC after gaining experience creating electronic components and devices during World War II. Thus, the SEAC was the first computer to use solid-state electronics extensively.

  Second Sound, 1949
  Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry
  SENKPLOT Software
  SIGMA (June 1989)
  Signaling Mirrors 1945
  Sound Standard Research 1930

Space Beads SRM When the U.S. space shuttle “Challenger” landed in 1983, a measurement problem landed with it. On board was a packet of several billion polystyrene beads, formed into nearly identical spheres during Challenger's flight. NASA designed an apparatus to duplicate bead preparation in space and NBS examined and measured the beads made in the weightless environment of space. The new Standard Reference Material (SRM), the first space-produced beads to be offered for sale, was given the identification SRM 1960. The images in this collection cover the development of the beads and a press conference announcing the production of the new SRM.

Spectroscopy Research 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. Yet in that time practically none of the spectra of the elements had been completely described. 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.

  St. Stephen's Robe
Surface Science, February 1987 Surface Science February 1987 With a scanning tunneling microscope, Drs. Robert Dragoset, Daniel Pierce, Robert Celotta, and Stanley Mielczarek studied the structure of surfaces and interfaces to determine how changes affect their properties.

SWAC Computer Dedicated on August 17, 1950 at the Institute for Numerical Analysis at UCLA, the Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC) was the companion computer to the SEAC (Standards Eastern Automatic Computer). It was to handle special problems of the aircraft industry on the west coast for the Navy Department, as well as engineering, physics, and mathematical calculations required by the National Bureau of Standards and by other Federal agencies in the area.

TC-2 Temperature Controller
  Weight Accuracy Test

Wilmer Souder Notebooks Physicist Dr. Wilmer Souder (1884-1974) worked at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS; today known as NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology) in precision measurements for half a century from 1911 to 1961. For much of his NBS career, Souder led the Thermal Expansion Section but his activities spanned dental materials research and forensic identification research and casework. This collection of nine notebooks contains high-level summaries of cases describing his forensic science activities in handwriting, typewriting, and bullet analysis. These notebooks describe work performed on over 800 cases submitted from about 80 different agencies, mostly for cases in which the federal government was a party.

Wind Tunnel This collection documents a wind tunnel building which began operation in January of 1918. The wind tunnel that Dr. Lyman J. Briggs designed housed a 9-foot propeller that produced air speeds of 90 miles an hour. In it Briggs installed recording apparatus and began his measurements on airfoils and on airplane and dirigible models. In almost continuous operation, the wind tunnel was also used to make studies of wind stresses, to test airspeed indicators and similar instruments, and to determine the flight characteristics of aerial bombs.

WWV Radio Since 1923, the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) has operated radio stations that broadcast standard time and frequency signals that were used as both time and frequency standards. These signals were the basis for setting clocks and were widely used for navigation, for setting frequencies of broadcast stations, and for other uses in which accurate frequency control was important. WWV locations have included Washington, D.C. (1923-1931), College Park, Maryland (1931-1932), Greenbelt, Maryland (1932-1966), and Fort Collins, Colorado (1966 to the present).

X-Ray Standardization At the National Bureau of Standards, Lauriston S. Taylor’s work on the absolute measurement of X-rays, published in 1929, showed that the roentgen could be precisely measured, and resulted in the first real quantitative data on X-ray standards in this country. Working through the National Committee on Radiation Protection and Measurements (the American counterpart of the councils working on standards in Europe), Lauriston Taylor’s X-ray safety code in 1931 established guides for the shielding of operating rooms and of high voltage equipment and for protective devices for patients and operators.

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