National Physical Laboratory, UK

National Physical Laboratory, UK

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The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, based at Bushy Park
Bushy Park
- External links :***...

 in Teddington
Teddington is a suburban area in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in south west London, on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hampton Wick and Twickenham. It stretches inland from the River Thames to Bushy Park...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. It is the largest applied physics
Applied physics
Applied physics is a general term for physics which is intended for a particular technological or practical use.It is usually considered as a bridge or a connection between "pure" physics and engineering....

 organisation in the UK.


NPL is an internationally respected centre of excellence in measurement
Metrology is the science of measurement. Metrology includes all theoretical and practical aspects of measurement. The word comes from Greek μέτρον , "measure" + "λόγος" , amongst others meaning "speech, oration, discourse, quote, study, calculation, reason"...

 and materials science
Materials science
Materials science is an interdisciplinary field applying the properties of matter to various areas of science and engineering. This scientific field investigates the relationship between the structure of materials at atomic or molecular scales and their macroscopic properties. It incorporates...

. Since 1900, when Bushy House
Bushy House
Bushy House is a former royal residence in Teddington in South West London, on the site of the National Physical Laboratory, overlooking Bushy Park....

 was selected as the site of NPL, it has developed and maintained the primary national measurement standards. Today it provides the scientific resources for the National Measurement System financed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is a ministerial department of the United Kingdom Government created on 5 June 2009 by the merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform .-Ministers:The BIS...

. NPL also offers a range of commercial services, applying scientific skills to industrial measurement problems, and manages the MSF time signal.

Teddington was also home to the UK National Chemical Laboratory but this was closed in 1965 and some of its work was transferred to NPL.

NPL cooperates with professional networks such as those of the IET
Institution of Engineering and Technology
The Institution of Engineering and Technology is a British professional body for those working in engineering and technology in the United Kingdom and worldwide. It was formed in 2006 from two separate institutions: the Institution of Electrical Engineers , dating back to 1871, and the...

 to support scientists and engineers concerned with areas of work in which it has expertise.

A new state-of-the-art laboratory for NPL at Teddington was completed in 2007.


Researchers who have worked at NPL include Paul Baran
Paul Baran
Paul Baran was a Polish American engineer who was a pioneer in the development of computer networks.He invented packet switching techniques, and went on to start several companies and develop other technologies that are an essential part of the Internet and other modern digital...

 and Donald Davies
Donald Davies
Donald Watts Davies, CBE FRS was a Welsh computer scientist who was one of the inventors of packet switching computer networking, and originator of the term.-Career history:...

, who co-invented packet switching
Packet switching
Packet switching is a digital networking communications method that groups all transmitted data – regardless of content, type, or structure – into suitably sized blocks, called packets. Packet switching features delivery of variable-bit-rate data streams over a shared network...

 in the early 1960s; D. W. Dye who did important work in developing the technology of quartz clock
Quartz clock
A quartz clock is a clock that uses an electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. This crystal oscillator creates a signal with very precise frequency, so that quartz clocks are at least an order of magnitude more accurate than good mechanical clocks...

s; Louis Essen
Louis Essen
Louis Essen FRS O.B.E. was an English physicist whose most notable achievements were in the precise measurement of time and the determination of the speed of light...

, who invented a more accurate atomic clock
Atomic clock
An atomic clock is a clock that uses an electronic transition frequency in the microwave, optical, or ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum of atoms as a frequency standard for its timekeeping element...

 than those first built in America. Others who have spent time at NPL include Harry Huskey
Harry Huskey
Harry Douglas Huskey is an American computer designer pioneer.Huskey was born in the Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina and grew up in Idaho. He gained his Master's and then his PhD in 1943 from the Ohio State University on Contributions to the Problem of Geocze...

, a computer pioneer; Alan Turing
Alan Turing
Alan Mathison Turing, OBE, FRS , was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist. He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of "algorithm" and "computation" with the Turing machine, which played a...

, one of the fathers of modern digital computing who was largely responsible for the early ACE computer design; Robert Watson-Watt
Robert Watson-Watt
Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt, KCB, FRS, FRAeS is considered by many to be the "inventor of radar". Development of radar, initially nameless, was first started elsewhere but greatly expanded on 1 September 1936 when Watson-Watt became...

, generally considered the inventor of radar, Oswald Kubaschewski, the father of computational materials thermodynamics
Thermodynamics is a physical science that studies the effects on material bodies, and on radiation in regions of space, of transfer of heat and of work done on or by the bodies or radiation...

 and the numerical analyst
Numerical analysis
Numerical analysis is the study of algorithms that use numerical approximation for the problems of mathematical analysis ....

 James Wilkinson
James H. Wilkinson
James Hardy Wilkinson was a prominent figure in the field of numerical analysis, a field at the boundary of applied mathematics and computer science particularly useful to physics and engineering.-Early life:...

. H.J. Gough
H.J. Gough
Herbert John Gough, CB, MBE, FRS was a British engineer, and research director.-Life:Born Bermondsey, London, he attended the Regent Street Polytechnic, and won a scholarship to University College London. In 1909, he became an apprentice at Vickers, Sons in 1913. He graduated from the University...

 one of the pioneers of research into metal fatigue
Fatigue (material)
'In materials science, fatigue is the progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to cyclic loading. The nominal maximum stress values are less than the ultimate tensile stress limit, and may be below the yield stress limit of the material.Fatigue occurs...

 worked at NPL for 19 years from 1914-38. The inventor Sir Barnes Wallis did early development work there on the "Bouncing Bomb" used in the "Dam Busters" wartime raids. Sydney Goldstein
Sydney Goldstein
Sydney Goldstein FRS was a British mathematician noted for his contribution to fluid dynamics. He is described as:...

 and Sir James Lighthill
James Lighthill
Sir Michael James Lighthill, FRS was a British applied mathematician, known for his pioneering work in the field of aeroacoustics.-Biography:...

 worked in NPL's aerodynamics division during WW2 researching boundary layer
Boundary layer
In physics and fluid mechanics, a boundary layer is that layer of fluid in the immediate vicinity of a bounding surface where effects of viscosity of the fluid are considered in detail. In the Earth's atmosphere, the planetary boundary layer is the air layer near the ground affected by diurnal...

 theory and supersonic aerodynamics respectively.

Directors of NPL

  • Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook
    Richard Glazebrook
    Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook KCB KCVO FRS was an English physicist.-Education and early career:Glazebrook was born in West Derby, Liverpool, the son of a surgeon...

    , 1900–1919
  • Sir Joseph Ernest Petavel, 1919–1936
  • Sir Frank Edward Smith
    Frank Edward Smith
    Sir Frank Edward Smith, GCB, GBE, FRS was a British physicist.He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918. His candidacy citation read: "Principal Assistant in the National Physical Laboratory . Author of a number of papers dealing with electrical units which have appeared in the...

    , 1936-1937 (acting)
  • Sir William Lawrence Bragg
    William Lawrence Bragg
    Sir William Lawrence Bragg CH OBE MC FRS was an Australian-born British physicist and X-ray crystallographer, discoverer of the Bragg law of X-ray diffraction, which is basic for the determination of crystal structure. He was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915. He was knighted...

    , 1937–1938
  • Sir Charles Galton Darwin
    Charles Galton Darwin
    Sir Charles Galton Darwin, KBE, MC, FRS was an English physicist, the grandson of Charles Darwin. He served as director of the National Physical Laboratory during the Second World War.-Early life:...

    , 1938–1949
  • Sir Edward Victor Appleton
    Edward Victor Appleton
    Sir Edward Victor Appleton, GBE, KCB, FRS was an English physicist.-Biography:Appleton was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and educated at Hanson Grammar School. At the age of 18 he won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge...

    , 1941 (acting)
  • Sir Edward Crisp Bullard
    Edward Bullard
    Sir Edward "Teddy" Crisp Bullard FRS was a geophysicist who is considered, along with Maurice Ewing, to have founded the discipline of marine geophysics...

    , 1948–1955
  • Dr Reginald Leslie Smith-Rose, 1955-1956 (acting)
  • Sir Gordon Brims Black McIvor Sutherland, 1956–1964
  • Dr John Vernon Dunworth, 1964–1977
  • Dr Paul Dean, 1977–1990
  • Dr Peter Clapham, 1990–1995
  • Dr John Rae, 1995–2000
  • Dr Bob McGuiness, 2000–2005
  • Steve McQuillan, 2005–2008
  • Dr Martyn Sené, 2008-2009 (acting)
  • Dr Brian Bowsher
    Brian Bowsher
    Brian Robert Bowsher FRSC FInstP is a British physicist, Managing Director of the National Physical Laboratory, since 2009.- References :...

    , 2009–Present

External links