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New! Postcards with Images from the NIST Archives

Special Edition Postcards Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the NIST Campus in Gaithersburg, MD

anniversary postcard 1 anniversary postcard 2

Each postcard shows an original watercolor of some aspect of the early Gaithersburg Campus design. Click on an image to download two postcards in a single PDF.

Print each file on one piece of 8.5 x 11-inch card stock, front and back, and cut along the center line to separate the postcards.

 

Other postcards:

X-Ray Standardization

Reflecting Telescope Glass

personnel / wind tunnel postcard

1925 Wind Tunnel

1918 Personnel Photos

charters / stepmeter postcard

Declaration of Independence

Stepmeter

car / miniature radio postcard

Miniature Radio

Automobile Testing

anechoic / dish postcard

Dish Smashing

Anechoic Chamber

MAGIC / optical glass postcard

MAGIC Computer

Optical Glass

Browse the corresponding collections of each postcard by clicking the links below each thumbnail.

 

Historic Photographic Collections in the NIST Archives

Images presented here are derived from the many historical photographic collections housed in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Archives at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The images provide a rich visual history of NIST and its predecessor the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).

When available, descriptions of the images are provided. However, many images include only minimal information. As you browse these images please share additional information on any of them by leaving a comment below the image or by e-mailing nda@nist.gov.


AD-X2 Controversy
AD-X2 ControversyBrowse this Collection
The National Bureau of Standards conducted battery research as early as 1917 as part of the war effort. NBS evaluated hundreds of battery additives that claimed to revive dead batteries. None appeared to have any significant effect on battery life or performance. The AD-X2 battery-testing controversy, which began in 1948, was caused by the testing of a product marketed under the name "Battery AD-X2.” When added to a lead-acid battery this product allegedly improved the battery’s performance and, under some circumstances, could presumably revive a dead battery. The NBS tests of this product resulted in congressional hearings, newspaper headlines, and charges of Bureau bias against the "little guy." Throughout the controversy, NBS stood by its position that the AD-X2 battery additive was “without merit.” The findings of a National Academy of Sciences committee supported the position of NBS, and NBS came away from the controversy perceived to be more credible than ever.
Aeronautic Instruments
Aeronautic InstrumentsBrowse this Collection
This collection depicts the instruments developed by the aeronautic instruments program at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). It includes photographs of altimeters, airspeed indicators, tachometers, and other aeronautical instruments. It also depicts displays of the aeronautical instruments developed at NBS that were included as part of the 1918 meeting of the American Physical Society, which was held annually at NBS in Washington, DC, from 1907-1941 and 1948-1965. All of the aeronautic instruments examined and tested at NBS 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 C. Cochrane, p. 181, 437; APS Meeting 1910, www.aps.org]
Anechoic Chamber
Anechoic Chamber Browse this Collection
The NBS Sound Building, dedicated to the study of acoustic phenomena, featured a large anechoic chamber. Construction on the building began in 1965 and it was occupied early in 1968. The anechoic chamber was the quietest place on the NBS campus. It was lined with large fiberglass wedges paired in a pattern that absorbed more than 99% of the sound originating within the room. It 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.
Annual Report FY 1975
Annual Report 1975 Browse this Collection
This collection contains photographic examples of the activities and accomplishments of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) during the fiscal year which ended June 30, 1975. Some of the highlighted activities include: the use of a laser to “enrich” or concentrate boron and chlorine isotopes; improvement in the accuracy of measuring the triple-point of water; testing a solar heating and cooling system in a four-bedroom townhouse; operated an experimental computer facility to support efforts in preparing Federal standards and guidelines for effective and efficient computer use; conducted a series of small-scale tests on bus carpeting and seats and pinpointed urethane padding in bus seats as potentially hazardous when ignited; studied smoke detector placement in the home; studied many recreational products for safety; published the Energy Conservation Program Guide for Industry and Commerce; and began work to determine the structure of biological molecules with the goal to provide detailed information on hydrogen bonds and water molecules.
Appliance Efficiency
Appliance Efficiency Browse this Collection
The Appliance Efficiency Photographic 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). The Act required the FEA (predecessor of the Department of Energy) to develop procedures to test the energy efficiency of certain appliances, set energy efficiency targets for appliances, and monitor effort by manufacturers to improve efficiency. As a result, since the late 1980s, consumers have been able to look at numbers on yellow stickers and quickly compare the operating costs of appliances they are considering buying. Much of the data gathered by NBS was also used by manufacturers to improve the design efficiency of appliances.
Atomic Clock
Atomic Clock Browse this Collection
The Atomic Clock Photographic 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. With such a clock, new precise values might be found for the velocity of light; new measurements of the rotation of the earth; and new measurements of the mean sidereal year might test whether Newtonian and atomic time are the same, yielding important results for relativity theory and cosmology [from: Measures for Progress by R. Cochrane, p. 476].
Automated Manufacturing Research Facility
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The idea to create the Automated Manufacturing Research Facility (AMRF) was born in 1979 as 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. 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. In 1981 the AMRF received both congressional funding as a new NBS initiative and financial support from a U.S. Navy program in manufacturing technology. Together, these funds allowed construction of the facility as an adjunct to the NBS Instrument Shop. [From: Responding to National Needs by James F. Schooley, p. 621]
Automobile Research
Automobile Research Browse this Collection
The Automobile Research Photographic Collection documents NBS research on automobiles in the first half of the 20th century. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of cars registered in the United States leaped from 9 million 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. NBS hoped that better knowledge of fuels, ignition, lubrication, and carburation could assist in lowering the gasoline consumption of automobiles and therefore represent a savings to the country. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 276]
Boulder Campus
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The Boulder Campus Photographic 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 NBS laboratories in Boulder.
Building and Fire Research
Building and Fire Research Browse this Collection

Materials in this collection are from the Fire Research Photographic Collection and the Structural Testing Photographic Collection. Due to the soaring volume of testing in 1909, the equipment and staff (53 engineers, chemists and assistants) of the structural materials laboratories of the Geological Survey were transferred to the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) on July 1, 1910. Well before this augmentation of the Bureau, its test program had already crowded into the last of the laboratories available at the Bureau. Planning expansion of both the Bureau's work in structural materials and that of the former Geological Survey group, Dr. Samuel W. Stratton asked Congress for new mammoth testing machines and a special building to house them. The funds were approved and a 1-million-pound crushing machine for compression tests of brick, stone, cement, and concretes; another machine with a 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. All were built to Bureau specifications. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 94, 96] Photographs from this effort became the Structural Testing Photographic Collection.

The Fire Research Photographic Collection documents work that began with funds appropriated by Congress in 1913 so that the National Bureau of Standards 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. The study provided architects, builders, state and city building bureaus, and insurance interests with fundamental engineering data long needed but nowhere available. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 130-131]

CARB - Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology
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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
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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. Four year passed before final concurrence was reached and an acceptable specification was adopted. Gradually, improved test procedures and instruments disclosed the need for better understanding of the constitution and characteristics of cement materials, and testing became routine. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 125-6.]
Ceramics
Ceramics Browse this Collection
The Ceramics Photographic 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
Charters of Freedom Browse this Collection
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 would be filled with chemically inert gas in place of air, and then sealed. Though the project was interrupted by World War II, 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. By 1951 work on the enclosures was completed and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were then sealed in the new enclosures. On September 17, 1951, the enclosed documents were returned to the Library of Congress and in early 1952, were transferred from to the custody of the National Archives. At that time, the Bill of Rights (which was already in the custody of the National Archives) was similarly enclosed and sealed. On December 15, 1952, the three documents were placed on permanent display at the National Archives. [From “NBS and the Constitution: An Office of Information Services Exhibit” by Karma A. Beal]
Colorimetry
Colorimetry -->Browse this Collection
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 their products. This research opened up a whole new branch of physics for investigation. After three decades of research and investigations, NBS published its dictionary of colors and color names in 1955. The research has continued over time and its modern equivalent can be found in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) color and appearance metrology facility, which supports calibration services for colored and gloss samples and research in colorimetric characterization. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 270-271]
Commercial Standards
Commercial Standards Browse this Collection
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].
Computer Security
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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
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The Constant of Gravitation Photographic 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.
Cooperative Research Opportunities at NIST, Special Publication 763
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This collection contains photos from NIST Special Publication 763, published October 1989. These photos document collaborative studies with researchers from industry. Through these collaborations, researchers from industry, universities, and other government agencies had an opportunity to work with NIST specialists, many of whom were renowned experts in their fields, and to use the Institute’s premier research and testing facilities.
Cryogenics
Cryogenics Browse this Collection
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 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The images in the Cryogenics Photographic Collection document experiments and equipment from the 1930s to the late 1950s. Over a period of eight years NBS made a series of cryogenic studies focused on the normal hydrogen molecule, and two isotopes: hydrogen deuteride and deuterium under a wide range of pressures. The final report on these studies by H.W. Woolley, Russell B. Scott and Ferdinand G. Brickwedde became a classic and established NBS as the Federal expert on cryogenic engineering. [From: Measures for Progress, by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 471]
Deep Ocean Sampler
Deep Ocean Sampler Browse this Collection
The Deep Ocean Sampler Photograph Collection contains photographs of NBS’s brief excursion into the high-pressure world of deep sea biotechnology during the late 1970s. Study of the living microbes was important to understanding their roles – if any – in decomposing wastes at great depths, and in the deep-ocean life cycle. The deep-ocean sampler was cited by Industrial Research and Development magazine as a winner of its 1979 IR-100 award, given to the "100 most significant new technical products."
Dimensions October 1975 Anniversary Issue
Dimensions October 1975 Anniversary Issue Browse this Collection
This collection contains photographs from NBS’s Dimensions 1975 Anniversary issue that commemorated the goals, programs, and accomplishments of NBS from its founding in 1901 through 1975. Some of the highlighted activities include: Laying the cornerstone of the main NBS laboratory, Washington, DC, in 1903; the International Technical Committee of 1910; measuring automobile performance in the 1920s; production of gage blocks during World War I; the nonconservation of parity experiment in 1956; construction of a 10-million-watt nuclear reactor; achievement of the highest frequency of measurement ever made; the first atomic clock; acquisition of a cotton mill; development of the prototype high speed dental air-turbine drill in the 1950s; development of a variety of special glasses during World War I; and design of SEAC in the late 1940s, one of the first computers.
Electron Physics
Electron Physics Browse this Collection
This collection contains images from the Electron Physics Section of the National Bureau of Standards. One of the achievements of the section was the construction of an electron-beam interferometer, followed by an electron spectrograph. With the main aim being better understanding of the processes by which electrons lose energy upon impact with atoms, the latter instrument measured the angle of scatter and was capable of detecting a loss of 5eV from an initial electron energy of 50 keV.
Elliot Richardson, Secretary of Commerce, Visit to NBS
Elliot Richardson, Secretary of Commerce, Visit to NBS Browse this Collection
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
Emery Testing Machine Browse this Collection
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
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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. Images in this collection include photographs of the apparatus used to achieve this measurement.
Federal Basis for Weights and Measures Report
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This collection includes 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. [From: “The Federal Basis for Weights and Measures,” NBS Circular 593, p. 1]
Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler
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This collection includes images related to Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (1770-1843), a Swiss engineer and metrologist who emigrated to this country at the age of 35. Hassler was the first superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey – a post he held from 1807-1818. The Coast Survey was part of the Treasury Department, and was the first real effort to provide accurate, if nonlegal, standards of weights and measures. It was the precursor the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [from: Measures for Progress, by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 24].
Fire Department at NIST
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Photos from NBS/NIST Fire Department.
Founding of the National Bureau of Standards
Browse this Collection On May 3, 1900, the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures met to consider a letter recently submitted by the Secretary of the Treasury requesting the establishment of a national standardizing bureau. Within 10 months the bill founding the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) passed both houses of Congress. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 1]. The images in this collection document the request letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, the first payroll records, and photographs of early members of the NBS staff.
Heat Division Staff Photos
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The Heat Division Photographic Collection contains photographs of employees from the various Heat Division’s 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. During this period its work became more basic, and it remained one of the leading scientific divisions at the National Bureau of Standards.
High Voltage Laboratory
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Before the 1930s the electrical industry had been content with laboratory measurements in line-to-line voltages in the range of 100,000 volts. By the late 1930s the industry, transmitting power at 285,000 volts, was in need of new measurements. In 1938, Congress approved funds for the construction of a new high voltage laboratory building on the campus of the National Bureau of Standards. This collection contains early images of that laboratory, completed in 1940, at a cost of $315,000, with a 2 million-volt generator for high voltage work and a 1,400,000-volt generator for X-ray studies. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 333]. This collection’s images document the high voltage laboratory building’s interior and apparatus used in measurement experiments.
Historic Photographs Collection
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This collection of images is comprised of many historical photographic collections housed in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Archives located on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, MD. The images provide a rich visual history of NIST and its predecessor the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). When available, descriptions of the images are provided. However, many images include only minimal information. Please browse these images and tell us if you have additional information on any of them by leaving a comment below the image or by e-mailing nda@nist.gov.
Hydraulics Laboratory
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This collection contains images of the National Hydraulics Laboratory at the former National Bureau of Standards Campus (NBS) in Washington, DC. In 1930, Congress authorized the construction of the National Hydraulics Laboratory. 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.

Federal and state agencies that did not possess the necessary laboratory facilities were able to use the NBS Hydraulics Laboratory to have studies made of structures designed by their engineering staffs. Designs of many structures, such as dams and dry docks, were improved and simplified through tests of small scale models made in the laboratory. Experimental and theoretical research included: the study of the flow reservoirs of bottom currents of sediment-laden water; the intrusion of subsurface sea water at the mouths of rivers; and the physics of plumbing. The laboratory organization also calibrated water current meters or instruments used in the measurement of the quantity of water flowing in rivers and other open channels.

The National Hydraulics Laboratory at the old NBS campus at Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness St. in Washington, was 285 feet long and 60 feet wide for two thirds of its length, and 92 feet wide for the remainder. The building contained two large concrete supply basins. From these, water was pumped through flumes and other experimental apparatus to a concrete measuring basin. From here, the water was returned to the supply basins. Maximum flow of over 100 cubic feet per second was possible in the main flume. The laboratory was designed with great flexibility and adaptability to allow for the simultaneous study of a number of different problems.

Hydrocarbon Standard Samples
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The Hydrocarbon Standards Photographic Collection contains photographs of hydrocarbon standards research during the 1940s at the National Bureau of Standards.
Instrument Shops
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Staffed by experienced machinists, draftsmen, and other shops experts, the Instrument Shops designed, constructed, and repaired high-precision instruments and auxiliary equipment for the use of National Bureau of Standards (NBS) scientists. The photographs in this collection date from near the founding of NBS in 1901 to the late 1970s.
Jacob Rabinow
Jacob Rabinow Browse this Collection
This collection contains images pertaining to Jacob Rabinow, a prominent researcher at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). He came to the NBS in 1938 as a junior mechanical engineer. Before he left government service in 1954 to form his own engineering company, Rabinow rose to the position of Chief of the Electro-Mechanical Ordnance Division. In this capacity, Rabinow played critical roles in such important NBS World War II achievements as the development of the proximity fuze and the Bat guided missile. After working for a time at Control Data Corporation, which purchased his company in 1964, Rabinow returned to NBS in 1972 as Chief Research Engineer of the National Engineering Laboratory. Retiring in 1975, he returned once more as a rehired annuitant to serve as Chief Consultant for the Office of Energy-Related Inventions. In 1998, he became a guest researcher in the Office of Information Services. Rabinow passed away in 1999. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Leather Research
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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. Leather substitutes produced by industry and tested at NBS included fish skin, porpoise, and sharkskin as uppers for civilian and military shoes and a variety of compositions for soles. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 175]. 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. [From: A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, p. 234]
Library at Old NBS Site
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This collection contains photographs of the library at the former site of 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.
Low Cost Housing
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Following on the better homes movement of the 1920s was the low-cost housing program of the 1930s, administered by the housing division of the Public Works Administration, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Having previously served as a consultant to these agencies on building materials, the National Bureau of Standards was now brought into this program and given funding for research in low-cost housing. NBS's studies in the structural and fire-resistant properties of materials for these houses were published in Building Materials and Structures Reports (BMS). Images in the Low Cost Housing Photographic collection are included in these BMS reports. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 334
Malcolm Baldrige Award Portraits
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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
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When the Office of Weights and Measures in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was transferred into the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1901 it brought with it the internationally recognized Prototype Kilograms No. 20 and No. 4 to the new agency. 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. The Mass Standards Photographic Collection documents the kilograms and other mass standards held by NIST.
Metallurgy Division Collection
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The Metallurgy Photographic 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. The Metallurgy Division performed a great deal of research during World War I and World War II, and in the 1950s began to focus on metal physics rather than traditional metallurgy. The Metallurgy Division has performed research in the chemical, physical, mechanical, and structural properties of metals, in particular fatigue and creep, as well as tensile and impact properties, corrosion, engineering metallurgy, alloy physics, lattice defects and microstructure, and electrolysis and metal deposition. Since the reorganization of the Material Measurement Laboratory in 2012, the metallurgy program has been part of the Materials Science and Engineering Division. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 118-119, 127, 129; and A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, p. 27, 29, 231-232, 238; Responding to National Needs by James F. Schooley, p. 121, 255]
Miniature Radio Receivers and Transmitters
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The images in this collection exhibit the results of National Bureau of Standards (NBS) research into miniature radio receivers and transmitters, including a wristwatch transmitter. The research was conducted during the 1930s and 1940s.
MSED Centennial Collections
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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
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In the latter years of World War I, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) implemented security measures which included a badge for each employee. Nearly 1,500 employees “were photographed for pass and identification purposes” according to the fiscal year 1919 report to the Secretary of Commerce from NBS's Director. (See: Annual Report of the Director, Bureau of Standards, to the Secretary of Commerce for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1919, Miscellaneous Publications No. 40, p. 291). The collection contains individual identification photographs of NBS employees. Each employee is shown with a number, presumably an employee number. Accompanying documentation identifies employees by the number and division.
National Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC Campus, circa 1905-1966
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The National Bureau of Standards Washington, DC Campus (circa 1905-1966) Photographic Collection consists of images documenting the former campus of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). The photographs include aerial and exterior views of the NBS buildings formerly located on Connecticut and Van Ness Streets, circa 1919-1952. Construction on the DC campus began around 1903 when NBS offices in downtown Washington moved to what was, at the time, a remote location on a stretch of Connecticut Avenue between Cleveland Park and Chevy Chase. Authorized by an appropriations act, NBS staff had just increased from 28 to 58, and space for the expanding Bureau was desperately needed. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 69]. 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
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The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Navigation called on the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to develop a radio beacon system to aid ship navigation in fog and rough weather. Between 1913 and 1915, Frederick A. Kolster developed a radio direction finder, or radio compass, which improved upon an original Italian design from 1907. It enabled a ship to establish its position by determining with high accuracy the direction of sending station signals. The radio compass was the forerunner of modern aviation landing systems. While the radio compass was useful for locating a radio signal source, when Federal aviation added passengers to its mail flights and extended its operations, it required greater safeguards than the compass could provide. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 142, 294]. In 1928, NBS developed the tuned reed course indicator used with a radio beacon which was designed to give an aircraft pilot a visible indication of whether he was on course as he approached an airfield, and if not, which way to turn. Also, around that time, NBS conducted research and development of blind landing systems such as the fog glidometer and runway localizer. The Navigation Research Photographic Collection features these instruments.
NBS Standards Employees Benefit Association (SEBA)(AVAILABLE ON NIST CAMPUS ONLY)
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Photos of members of the Standards Employees Benefit Association (SEBA) at various events. (AVAILABLE ON NIST CAMPUS ONLY)
NIST User Facilities Brochure
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This 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.
Noisemeter
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The Noisemeter Photographic Collection contains photos of NBS sound research circa 1929. The photos in this collection depict Wilbert F. Snyder and V.L. Chrisler’s development of radio aids to aerial navigation, mostly on behalf of the U.S. military services.
Optical Glass
Optical Glass Browse this Collection
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. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 187]. This collection of photos depicts glass operations at NBS from the 1920s to the 1940s, and beyond.
Ordnance from World War II
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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 fuzes for rockets, bombs, and guided missiles -- including the “Bat,” the first fully automatic guided missile used successfully in combat. The guided missile project was first code-named “Robin,” and testing of prototypes intended to carry a standard 2,000-pound bomb began in 1942 using a television guidance system. The first radio-operated guided missile tested was the “Pelican,” mounted in the nose of a 450-pound glider bomb and tested at Lakehurst, NJ in 1942. The “Bat,” which was developed from the “Robin” project but used radar guidance, began testing in May 1944. It was sent to the Pacific theatre for use against Japanese naval and merchant shipping and against land targets in the forward areas in the final months of the war. [From: Measures for Progress by Elio Passaglia, pp. 399-403] This collection includes the smaller Bat Missile Photographic Collection.
Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915
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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
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With funds provided by the Carnegie Foundation, studies were made of the permanence of Government writing papers, the preservation of records, and of library storage conditions. Light, heat, humidity and many other deterioratives of papers and books were assessed, but the principal enemy of records proved to be the common air pollutant, sulfur dioxide. The investigation, extended to newspaper records, motion picture film, records on photographic film, microfilm, and lamination, culminated in the Bureau's work on the preservation at the National Archives of the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. [from: Measures for Progress by R. Cochrane, p.334-335.]
Perspectives on Standards, Special Publication 467
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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
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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
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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. [from: Measures for Progress by R.C. Cochrane, p. 111]
Photometry and Colorimetry Section
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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).
Polymers Division Collection
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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. By 1964, its principal research focus had moved from products formed by natural polymers to synthetic polymers. Research areas included crystallization phenomena, solution properties for the preparation of molecular weight-standards, adsorption and the study of polymers at surfaces, and polymer degradation. Since its inception, major research areas of the Polymers Division have included: polymer crystallization, polymer physical and chemical properties, dental materials, and measurement techniques. [From: A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, p. 424-427, 571; Responding to National Needs: The National Bureau of Standards Becomes the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 1969—1993 - Page 1by James F. Schooley, p. 112, 117-121]. 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.
Project Tinkertoy
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Project Tinkertoy was the codename 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. The pilot plant had to be compatible with the principles of modular design of electronics (MDE) and mechanized production of electronics (MPE). The pilot plant was up and running by 1953. An estimate of the manufacturing cost was made and found to be 44 percent lower than conventional processes. 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. [From: A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, pp. 201, 203]. This collection of images includes design models for the plant, plant machinery, and examples of the components produced.
Pyrometry
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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.
Radioactivity Measurement Laboratory
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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, France, 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. Ernest Dorsey was the principal NBS researcher on radium as he made intercomparisons of sealed radium standards and started an investigation of the gamma-ray method of radium measurement. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 146-147]
Radiosonde Photographic Collection
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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. Effective from ground level to heights of 15 or more miles and at distances up to 200 miles, the radiosonde enormously increased the range and quantity of weather data previously gathered by observing devices strapped to kites, zeppelins, or the wings of airplanes. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 353]
Reagan Participation in Superconductivity Conference
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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. [From: Responding to National Needs by James F. Schooley, p. 598]
Reflecting Telescope
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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 two largest in this country, the 40-inch at the Yerkes Observatory and the 100-inch at Mount Wilson, had both come from Europe. Challenged by the lack of information on methods of making glass for a large telescope reflector — it was, of course, a trade secret — NBS borrowed on its own experience and began to experiment. It took several tries between 1924 and 1928 before a disk was successfully poured and cooled without cracking. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 274]. The images in this collection document the work to design and pour the disk.
Robotics
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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.
SEAC Computer
Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC) Browse this Collection
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. By modern standards the specifications for the SEAC were modest enough but they were state of the art at that time. All the logical operations of the computer were carried out by germanium diodes; vacuum tubes were used only for amplification. Thus, the SEAC was the first computer to use solid-state electronics extensively. [From: A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, p. 42-43] See also the Standards Western Automatic Computer (SWAC) Photographic Collection
Space Beads - Standard Reference Material 1960
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When the U.S. space shuttle “Challenger” landed in 1983, a measurement challenge landed with it. On board was a packet of several billion polystyrene beads, formed into nearly identical spheres during Challenger's flight. The odyssey of the little beads began in a contract between personnel of Marshall Space Flight Center and the Emulsion Polymers Institute of Lehigh University. Lehigh Professor John W. Vanderhoff headed a small group who developed a novel technique for producing beads of approximately the desired size and shape, but found that on earth gravity caused the beads to take non-spherical shapes and to vary substantially in size. NASA designed an apparatus to duplicate bead preparation in space. NBS was charged with examining and measuring the beads made in the weightless environment of space. These became a new Standard Reference Material (SRM) – the first space-produced beads to be offered for sale – and was given the identification SRM 1960. [From: Responding to National Needs by James F. Schooley, p. 573-574]. The images in this collection cover the development of the beads and a press conference announcing the production of the new SRM.
Spectroscopy Research
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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 as characteristic of the element as fingerprints are for 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 Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 247-248]
SWAC Computer
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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. The SWAC was quite different in logical design and construction, being a parallel machine in which all the digits of a number in memory are changed simultaneously, had electrostatic memory rather than mercury-delay-line memory, and also used a magnetic drum memory. [From: Measures of Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 458; and A Unique Institution by Elio Passaglia, p. 43]
Wind Tunnel
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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. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, p. 182]
WWV Radio
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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 Standards
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In 1928, the Second International Congress of Radiology proposed the “roentgen” as the unit of quantity for expressing X-ray and gamma-ray protection. 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. The initial measurements of X-rays had been made with heavy and bulky equipment. Construction in 1930 of a portable, guarded-field ionization chamber provided means for a much needed, accurate primary standard in convenient form. [From: Measures for Progress by Rexmond C. Cochrane, pp. 339-340]

 

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