Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/213

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY



SEPTEMBER, 1911



THE BUREAU OF STANDARDS
By Professor HENRY S. CARHART
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

THE scientific bureaus of the government in Washington are conducting investigations on a scale and of a degree of merit not fully appreciated by the public because so little is known about them. The Imperial Institution known as the Reichsanstalt in Charlottenburg, a suburb of Berlin, has acquired international fame; and the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington in the environs of London is nearly as famous as a government institution of research.

In no way inferior to these is our own Bureau of Standards, situated out on the hills in Washington toward Chevy Chase. It has just completed its tenth year. Its activities in the interest of standards of measurement and of excellence entitle it to as high a position in popular favor as it already enjoys in the esteem of scientific workers and of those applying scientific data to practical ends.

The two prime functions of the bureau are to serve the government and the larger clientele of manufacturers and ultimate consumers. To which beneficiary precedence should be given is a question; happily whatever serves the one serves also the other.

The bureau is by law the custodian of all physical standards, and is authorized by the act creating it to exercise such functions as are necessary for their construction, comparison, maintenance and dissemination. In addition to these duties is the highly important one of defining standards of excellence for manufactured articles and materials of construction of which the departments of the government are large consumers.

The division of electricity has made its full quota of contributions to the fixing of standards of electrical measurement in comparison with similar institutions of other governments. In recognition of this fact,