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With much of the US in denial, a group of foreign-born scientists led by Niels Bohr foresaw the country’s eventual involvement in WWII. Bohr, for example, urged a moratorium on publication in the Allied countries of research related to nuclear fission. It was almost a year before the scientific community truly headed Bohr’s warnings. Dr. Briggs, from his position on the Advisory Committee on Uranium, began to prepare himself and his agency for the possibility of war. Briggs prepared for the Department of Commerce and list of services the Bureau was prepared to offer “in the event of war.” Among these: to test all materials to be purchased under the Strategic Materials Act, to increase its output of optical glass, to certify US materials sent abroad (especially instruments, gages, metals and cement), and more. Dr. Briggs also included with his memorandum a copy of “The War Work of the Bureau of Standards” which detailed the Bureau’s contributions during WWI.

 

The country as a whole was totally unprepared for a new war – the armed forces had outdated equipment (and that in short supply) while much of the nation was still facing the high unemployment and sluggish manufacturing of the Great Depression. The general mood of the country was against involvement in the war (as evidenced by the 1940 Democratic Party Platform) and thus mobilization to prepare for war was slow. In taking on projects related to wartime preparation, the Bureau was forced to begin classifying much of its research. As a result, the annual reports from the Bureau became restricted to only nonconfidential research. By 1942, so much of the material was classified that there was no point in printing the annual report at all. The sensitive nature of the work being done at the Bureau also led Dr. Briggs to close the laboratories to visitors, fence in the property and close Van Ness Street, which ran through the site. By the beginning of 1942, 90 percent of Bureau staff were dedicated to war research and Military Police patrolled the “prohibited zone” that was the Bureau grounds.

 

That the Bureau would be tasked with testing the strength and properties of material like metals used for weapons, airplanes and the like or with finding materials that could be substituted for those in short supply as a result of the war would seem obvious. There were also more obscure aspects of war to be considered, however. One interesting example is the Bureau’s participation in a “joint Army-Navy program to determine the characteristics of sky glow from artificial sources and the extent to which sky glow and shore lights might aid hostile ships offshore.” Among other priority Bureau projects during the early part of the war were research on petroleum conservation (because oil tankers were great targets for enemy submarines) and the production of synthetic rubber. Gas was rationed (to save the rubber in car tires more than to save gas), resulting in numerous citizen inventions intended to save gas being submitted to the Bureau for testing.

 

Thanks to the war, the Bureau’s staff would increase by more than 238 percent from 1939 to 1945, including over 200 members of the armed forces. Even more dramatic, funding increased from $3 million just prior to US entrance into the war to $13.5 million by 1944. To accommodate the huge demand for testing and the now huge staff, all of the Bureau’s conference and lecture rooms were converted to laboratories and 2nd and 3rd shifts were introduced to make maximum use of the space and equipment. The standard work week was also lengthened from 39 hours before the war to 44 hours.

 

The Bureau continued to be involved in the development of the atomic bomb by testing the purity of uranium and other elements. While many at the Bureau suspected that a weapon using uranium might be under development, the secrecy ran so deep and the security was so tight that even researchers working directly on the project sometimes failed to realize what the end-game might be, thinking instead that the uranium would be used for power plants to power planes or submarines.

 

**The information presented here is drawn from “Measures For Progress: A History of The National Bureau of Standards” (Rexmond C. Cochrane)

 

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So, the last installment of the series left off with the establishment of the Mathematical Tables Project, which, by 1943, had produced 27 book-length tables as well as many shorter ones. The thirties also gave rise to an undertaking to identify and quantify the physical constants of pure substances, especially of industrially important organic compounds. Importing a method devised by a scientist at the Polytechnic Institute of Warsaw, Bureau chemists researched a number of substances by determining their vapor pressure, boiling point and more.

 

Thus, as mentioned in a previous installment, although the Great Depression brought with it reductions in staff and funding, as well as other hardships, the reduced bureaucracy of the time allowed the Bureau staff who remained to focus their energies on some much-needed fundamental research that would serve as the building blocks for years to come.

 

In September 1933, two Bureau researchers, Burt Carroll and Donald Hubbard, were awarded medals by the Société Française de Photographie et de Cinématographie in recognition of their contributions to the world of photo-sensitive emulsions. The Bureau’s involvement in this field began in 1921 with the need for emulsions sensitive to infrared spectra for which commercially available film was unsuited. With German equipment installed in the basement of the Bureau’s chemistry building, Carroll and Hubbard set to work on creating a better film. For 7 years, their efforts were largely futile with sometimes over 400 batches of emulsion made in a single year. By 1933, however, the two were publishing their 17th report on the mechanism of photographic hypersensitivity. They were finally creating emulsions superior to commercial ones and in publishing their methods, they would threaten trade secrets of those commercial producers. Therefore, when budget cuts were made, the emulsion project was among the first to go as one of seven projects which the Visiting Committee specifically targeted (the others were heavy hydrogen research, dental cements and alloys, certain industrial concerns, internal combustion engines, production methods for levulose and the design of a telephoto astronomical objective).

 

In 1933, Congress made its biggest reduction in Bureau appropriations with a cut of 54 percent which affected over 100 projects. Particularly hard hit were the projects involving automotive engines (over 40 different projects), because of their unpopularity with the auto industry when, for example, one manufacturer’s engine was deemed by the Bureau to be superior to the others. Also due to budget concerns, the Bureau surrendered work on standardization and specifications to the American Standards Association. Amid backlash from the industrial community at the change, it was agreed that the Bureau would continue to cooperate with the ASA.

 

Around the same time, the Bureau and Dr. Briggs were embroiled in lawsuits regarding the issuance of patents to Bureau researchers. The practice under Dr. Stratton had been that patentable material would be patented in the name of the Government and would be for public use. This method was challenged in 1922 by two researchers of the radio section who developed a method by which radios could be operated by current rather than the traditional batteries. This innovation fell outside the area of their assigned field of research and as such, they filed three patents in their own names relating to the technology. In response, a formal policy regarding patents was devised and it explicitly stated that patents for inventions and discoveries of Bureau employees would be registered to the Government. The District Court of Delaware later decided in favor of Lowell and Dunmore because the invention was not part of their assigned work. An appeal to the US Circuit Court upheld the District Court’s decision as did a further appeal to the Supreme Court which was decided in 1933 in favor of the inventors.

 

While the funding cuts were bitterly made, Dr. Briggs did acknowledge that some programs had become entrenched, not because they were useful or truly merited ongoing research, but because all possible angles of research had not yet been completely exhausted. The reductions in staff and resources forced various projects, such as radio research, down to their absolute most important aspects.

 

**The information presented here is drawn from “Measures For Progress: A History of The National Bureau of Standards” (Rexmond C. Cochrane)

 

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Finally, in 1935, the Bureau could document an increase in requests from industry for data. This coincided with increased building at the state and federal levels which brought an increase in government requests for tests and calibrations (as well as a modest increase in funding, sufficient to rehire former staffers). In 1938, Congress approved construction of a new electrical testing laboratory to replace the obsolete one built 25 years earlier when voltage ranges were much lower than those being produced in the late ‘30s, further evidencing the improving economy. Thanks in large part to new dam-building projects across the country, the opening of new branch laboratories also increased during the late ‘30s.

 

Efforts to stimulate the economy through low-cost housing also led to Bureau funding for research into structural and fire-resistant properties of construction materials to be used for housing. This program and its funding were cut from New Deal sponsorship as WWII approached, but the work continuing at the urging of the building industry. After a hiatus during the war, building technology became its own division within the Bureau in 1950.

 

Also during the 1930s, the Bureau completed research relating to the preservation of paper records. The work, funded by the Carnegie Foundation, tested the effects of such forces as light, heat and humidity on storage of paper and books. Sulphur dioxide was determined to be the greatest enemy of paper storage. The work led, in turn, to studies on the preservation of all types of media and to the Bureau’s involvement in the preservation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution at the National Archives.

 

Another interesting line of study at the time related to X-ray dosages and ultraviolet radiation. Although both technologies were becoming quite widely used by medical professionals, they did not really understand the thresholds of safe and unsafe exposure, particularly to the equipment operators as opposed to the patients. At the urging of the president of the Radiological Society of North America, Congress provided funding at the Bureau began to research the issue. Physicist Lauriston Taylor, who had been working on X-rays and electronics at Cornell was brought on to Bureau staff to lead the work.

 

Taylor’s first order of business was to construct new equipment for the testing, which he did from parts of other equipment on hand at the Bureau. In 1928, he attended the Second International Congress of Radiology and became the first Chairman of the National Committee on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Taylor published research in 1929 showing that X-ray dosages could be quantitatively measured and in 1931 he published guides for safety shielding of operating rooms, patients and operators. Similar publications for radium, at the hand of Dr. Leon Custiss, followed in 1934.

 

Paints, made from compounds including radium, were developed to have luminous properties for applications on instrument panels for the military during WWI and also on watch faces. Little was known about the effects of the radium paint at the time. It was later determined that the amount used for a watch face was fine, but the problem was the factory application of the paint to the watch during production. Being wartime, mostly girls worked in the factories and the put their paint brush tips in their mouths to draw them to a point, thereby ingesting the paint. Hundreds of these girls died of what was later diagnosed as radium poisoning. In 1932, the American Medical Association discontinued all internal administration of radium as a remedy. The Bureau’s research on the topic was found in the 1932 handbook on radium protection and in 1941 it had a handbook of its own.

 

Also during the 1930s, work advanced in spectroanalysis with new and accurate measurements of the atomic emission spectra of chemical elements, rare gases, and rare metals. An index was published by the American Society for Testing Materials that listed almost 1,000 papers on the subject written during the preceding two decades. Dr. Briggs also proposed that the Bureau sponsor a central agency for computing fundamental tables for applied mathematics. With basically no equipment provided, the project began in New York City with hundreds of workers doing calculations by hand. The first order of business? To prepare the 16-place values of natural logarithms, the 15-place values of probability functions, and the 10-place values of Bessel functions of complex arguments. Within a decade, equipment existed to compute in minutes what 400 individuals with pencils did in months, but the Mathematical Tables Project was widely and gratefully recognized at the time.

 

**The information presented here is drawn from “Measures For Progress: A History of The National Bureau of Standards” (Rexmond C. Cochrane)

 

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015 00:00

The AP 3000 Dial Mechanical Dynamometer

The AP Dynamometer

 

The Dillon AP Dynamometer (Cooper part number AP 3000) was first bought to market in 1936 and has since become the market leader in dynamometers. Its simplistic, mechanical form has limitless versatility and used in many diverse jobs such as suspended weighing, mounting cables for bridges, adjusting tension on guy wires and field testing of ropes, chains and wire.

 

The rugged build of the product makes it suitable for almost any enviromnment and has been seen put through its paces by the military on vehicles, submerged under water and in harsh field environments.

 

Read more in the product's full specifications...

 

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We left off with the Bureau facing three simultaneous investigations into its functions and budget. All three investigations resulted in the conclusion that it was necessary for the Bureau to continue performing essential testing whether specifically noted in its organic act or not. The investigations also pointed out that the Bureau had been hit disproportionately hard by funding cuts and staff reductions during the Depression, although they differed in their recommendations of how the Bureau should move forward. While no official change was made to formalize Bureau authority to perform testing deemed by some to be outside its scope, tacit approval was given by the new appropriations of 1935, which replaced 29 appropriations items with one act divided into four general funds, one of which included a provision for the Bureau’s continued involvement with the ASA and work on standards for commerce.

 

As the Depression dragged on through the 1930s, Dr. Briggs repeatedly contested that new inventions would stimulate industry, the consumer and the economy. One stimulus strategy employed at the time was the idea of transforming the nation from a production-based economy to a consumption-based economy, or ushering in “consumerism.” The National Recovery Administration, set up by the Roosevelt administration in 1933, would be advised by an Industrial Board, a Labor Advisory Board and a Consumers’ Advisory Board to ensure maximum benefit to all parties from new legislation concerning issues like minimum wage, work hours and price regulation to the end of stimulation consumption.

 

The task of the Consumers’ Advisory Board was to promote use of specifications and labeling in consumer products through NRA code, but some believe agencies like the ASA and the Bureau of Standards incapable of making such recommendations because of their perceived propensity to favor industry above the consumer. Despite this concern, there were no reasonable grounds for setting up an independent laboratory for the task, so over the NRA’s 2-year life, the Bureau reviewed almost 500 codes for fair competition involving consumer standards.

 

Over the course of the late 1920’s to late 1930’s a number of agencies, publications and laboratories appeared dedicated to consumer education, but they lacked the organization to form a unified national force. The Bureau, for its part, had difficulties working with these consumer groups because their organic act legally oriented their efforts to industry. Nevertheless, the Bureau recognized the benefit of performing consumer testing within a single institution under the Federal Government but thought the creation of a consumer testing agency unlikely as Congressional funding would probably not be approved. The Bureau cooperated with the consumer movement by advising consumer laboratories on their test instruments and equipment, developing new testing equipment and issuing publications geared toward the individual consumer. One such publication was entitled “Services of the National Bureau of Standards to the Consumer,” which explained how the Bureau’s efforts benefitted the individual.

 

Even though it was a challenging period, the Depression created lulls in committee assignments to the Bureau and travel, as well as drop in supervisory duties which created more time for actual research. The Bureau was forced to make staffing cuts and could not hire qualified scientists, but their funding did provide for “clerks” and “draftsmen.” It was also during this time that Dr. Brigg won his battle to add the word “National” back to the Bureau’s name after 30 years of being the “Bureau of Standards.”

 

**The information presented here is drawn from “Measures For Progress: A History of The National Bureau of Standards” (Rexmond C. Cochrane)

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

COOPER INSTRUMENTS & SYSTEMS ANNOUNCES UPDATES TO PRODUCT LINE

 

January 6, 2015

Warrenton, VA

 

Cooper Instruments & Systems announced on Tuesday that they have expanded and updated their product line.

 

The ACX-1 Aircraft Cable Tension Meter replaces the ACX, the TX-1 and LX-1 Digital Tension Meters have replaced the TX and LX, and the STX-1 Digital Strap Tension Meter takes the place of the STX. All of the new products feature updated technology and software versus their predecessors. Other improvements include color screens, instead of black and white, and the new ability to define an acceptable tension range.

 

Cooper has also updated their WTM 502 Wire Tension Meter. New features include: backlight, data collection, up to 20 wire rope calibrations and enhanced display interface.

 

Cooper Instruments has also added the LR-19 Series Linear Position Sensors and LR-27 Series Linear Induction Sensors to their offerings from Alliance Sensors Group.

 

Cooper Instruments & Systems is a worldwide leading supplier of force and pressure measurement instrumentation, sensor systems and custom calibration services. Since opening for business in 1988, their products and systems have been used extensively around the globe.

 

# # #

 

For more information about Cooper Instruments & Systems, please contact Rex Cooper at (800) 344-3921 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

As always, if you have any questions related to this material, our support staff at Cooper Instruments is available to help. Contact them by calling (800) 344-3921 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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