Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / March 1901

March 1901: National Bureau of Standards Established

A new era of scientific research began on March 3, 1901 with the establishment of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). NBS would be the government’s primary scientific agency until the National Science Foundation was established in 1950. Metrology, the science of measurement, was the first focus of NBS researchers, and their early work led to the development and promulgation of standards of time, length, weight, and material hardness. Early research also included experiments in the new fields of electricity, optics, and radio. Throughout the years the Bureau expanded into many new areas of research, including flight, meteorology, atomic energy, and cryogenics to assist other agencies with their scientific goals. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Bureau's work in both world wars, the cold war, and the space race. In 1965 a new agency, the Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA) took over most of the Bureau’s earth science, meteorology, and radio work, and in 1988 NBS was disbanded and the National Institute of Standards of Technology took its place. Over time, the increasing specialization of technology has led to a proliferation of science agencies in the U.S. government. ITS, NASA, NOAA, NIST, and many more agencies now conduct specific aspects of the research that was once housed under the Bureau's umbrella.