Vol. 23, No.3
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Celebrates its Centennial
Establishment of the National Bureau
of Standards (NBS)
Scientific Work of NBS/NIST
NBS/NIST Participation in IUPAC
Mark the Centennia
by Dr. Robert N. Goldberg
and Dr. David R. Lide
A reasonably complete summary of the work done at NBS/NIST over the
past 100 years would have to encompass essentially all aspects of not
only chemistry and physics, but also mathematics and statistics, computer
science, engineering, and biotechnology. A compendium of summaries of
just over 100 of the "most significant publications" from NIST has been
prepared for the NIST Centennial from the approximately 100 000 publications
that have come from NBS/NIST. Included in these publications are books
and journal articles on a wide variety of topics that have had very
significant scientific and/or practical impacts. Several of these publications
are cited below, together with selected (and edited) narratives from
the aforementioned compendium.
# N. S. Osborne, H. F. Stimson, D. C. Ginnings. "Calorimetric determination
of the thermodynamic properties of saturated water in both the liquid
and gaseous states from 100 to 374 °C", J. Res. Natl. Bur. Stand.
(U.S.) 18, 389-447 (1937). Some of the most important research to meet
the need for high-accuracy property data for water was performed at
NBS. The effort was led by N. S. Osborne, who, with his colleagues,
made measurements of unparalleled accuracy of waters saturation
pressure and its thermodynamic properties. While there was a series
of papers on the subject, this particular paper is usually considered
the most important. These measurements resulted in international standards
that, with modifications, are still in use. It is a testimony to the
quality of the measurements in this paper that they are still considered
the best available over 60 years later. These measurements provide much
of the foundation for the "steam tables" used throughout industry. Thus,
they have been integral to the design and operation of most electric
power generation facilities existing in the world today, and they also
continue to be important in many other industries such as chemical manufacturing
and petroleum refining.
# C. E. Moore. Atomic Energy Levels as Derived from the Analysis
of Optical Spectra. Vol. I. Natl. Bur. Stand. (U.S.) Circular 467.
U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC (1949). Data on the
structure and spectra of atoms is of critical importance for physics,
chemistry, astronomy, and a wide variety of applied technical fields.
These data are derived largely from the study of optical spectra and
have been presented in thousands of research papers beginning in the
early 1900s. By the 1940s, it was apparent that there was a need to
compile these data in a readily accessible form. This task was undertaken
by Dr. Charlotte Moore of NBS, who was joined by several colleagues
in later publications. The resulting Atomic Energy Levels volumes have
become among the most widely cited and influential publications in atomic
# F. D. Rossini, D. D. Wagman, W. H. Evans, S. Levine, I. Jaffe. Selected
Values of Chemical Thermodynamic Properties. Natl. Bur. Stand. (U.S.)
Circular 500. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC (1952).
Circular 500 represented the culmination of 20 years of work by Frederick
Rossini in evaluating and systematizing the world literature in thermochemistry.
It tabulated accurate values of the thermodynamic properties of all
known inorganic and simple organic compounds in a format that allowed
prediction of the outcome of thousands of chemical reactions. Such calculations,
which indicate whether a reaction will take place and, if so, the amount
of heat released or absorbed, are immensely important in the chemical
and energy industries. The late Henry Eyring, one of the major figures
of 20th century chemistry, once claimed that Circular 500 saved U.S.
industry enough money to pay the entire cost of NBS since its founding.
The book also had a major impact on scientific research and education.
It was a fixture in every undergraduate chemistry lab for a generation.
The U.S. Department of Defense and the National Air and Space Administration
programs to develop high-performance rocket engines in the 1950s drew
heavily on the data in Circular 500.
# W. F. Hillebrand, G. E. F. Lundell, H. A. Bright, J. I. Hoffman.
Applied Inorganic Analysis: With Special Reference to the Analysis
of Metals, Minerals, and Rocks, (2nd ed.), Wiley, New York (1953).
This treatise contains an extensive amount of information on classic
inorganic chemical separations and quantitative analyses. It helped
to shape analytical chemistry worldwide. Six initial chapters describe
common analytical methods such as weighing and reagent preparation.
In Part II, each element or small group of similar elements has a chapter,
giving general chemical considerations, then detailed methods for dissolution,
separation, and determination. Nearly 50 years after its publication,
there is still no equivalent source for much of the information.
# C. S. Wu, E. Ambler, R. W. Hayward, D. D. Hoppes, R. P. Hudson.
"Experimental test of parity conservation in beta decay". Phys. Rev.
105, 1413-1415 (1957). From the time that parity was introduced
as a concept into atomic and nuclear physics, its conservation was an
article of faith among physicists. However, it had been pointed out
[T. D. Lee and C. N. Yang. Phys. Rev. 104, 254-258 (1956)]
that no evidence existed either to support or to refute the conservation
of parity in weak interactions. Lee and Yang proposed a number of experiments
on beta decays, and on hyperon and meson decays, to resolve the matter,
including those of possible asymmetry of the angular distribution of
the beta decay of polarized nuclei. This publication reported experiments
that showed beta rays that emitted from polarized 60Co atoms,
in a thin crystalline layer on single-crystal cerous magnesium nitrate
[Ce2Mg3(NO3)12 ·24H2O] within
a demagnetization cryostat, did exhibit this asymmetry, thereby providing
unequivocal proof that parity is not preserved. Over preceding years,
the authors had developed outstanding theoretical and unexcelled experimental
capabilities in this field, so that they were able to grasp the opportunity
to carry out the investigation. Its outcome culminated in the Nobel
Prize being awarded to Lee and Yang. It also gave NBS well-deserved
pride for having participated in one of the major events in the history
# M. Abramowitz and I. A. Stegun (Eds.). Handbook of Mathematical
Functions with Formulas, Graphs, and Mathematical Tables. Natl.
Bur. Stand. (U.S.) Applied Mathematics Series 55. U.S. Government Printing
Office: Washington, DC (1964). This 1046-page handbook provides fundamental
reference information about mathematical functions that are of use in
many applications. The functions covered include elementary transcendental
functions, exponential integrals, the gamma function, Legendre functions,
Bessel functions, hypergeometric functions, Coulomb wave functions,
elliptic functions, orthogonal polynomials, probability functions, and
others. In each case, mathematical properties, such as defining differential
equations, recurrence relations, integral representations, summation
formulas, and asymptotic expansions, are presented, along with descriptions
of computational methods. More than half of the book is devoted to numerical
tables of function values. Because of its succinct presentation of information
of critical use in applications, the Handbook has had enormous impact
on science and engineering. It has been continuously in print since
1964, with total sales estimated at approximately one-half million copies.
It is among the most widely cited of all scientific publications.
# L. A. Currie. "Limits for qualitative detection and quantitative
determination: Application to radiochemistry", Anal. Chem. 40,
586-593 (1968). This classic paper clearly showed the inadequacies of
the many definitions of the term "detection limit". A notable example
was a figure showing eight literature definitions applied to the same
measurement problem that spanned a factor of 500 in the quantity measured.
More importantly, the author defined statistically defensible expressions
for decision limit, detection limit, and quantitation limit that are
now the standard for measurement science. This paper has had more than
1 400 citations in the literature and has been used in many analytical
chemistry textbooks since the mid-1970s. It has served as a basis for
the Detection/Quantification portion of IUPAC Recommendations ["Nomenclature
in evaluation of analytical methods including detection and quantification
capabilities", Pure Appl. Chem. 67, 1699-1723 (1995)].
Subsequently, these Recommendations were incorporated in the latest
edition of the IUPAC "Orange
# A. Wlodawer, J. Walter, R. Huber, L. Sjölin. "Structure of bovine
pancreatic trypsin inhibitor", J. Mol. Biol. 180, 301-329
(1984). This paper is recognized as a landmark contribution to the field
of protein crystallography. It was the first publication to combine
X-ray and neutron data in the joint refinement of protein structure,
and the first to extend spatial resolution of hydrogen positions in
small proteins to <10-10 m. By describing the study of two
similar crystal structures, the paper presented the first detailed analysis
of how protein structure is affected by molecular packing. This paper
also established that joint X-ray-neutron refinement could produce structural
detail consistent with the then-emerging technique of 2-dimensional
nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) protein crystallography. Thus, this
publication had a notable impact on the field of protein crystallography.
# P. D. Lett, R. N. Watts, C. I. Westbrook, W. D. Phillips, P. L. Gould,
H. J. Metcalf. "Observation of atoms laser cooled below the Doppler
limit". Phys. Rev. Lett. 61, 169-172 (1988). This paper
is one of a series of papers that reported scientific breakthroughs
in the cooling and trapping of atoms that led to Bill Phillips being
a corecipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics. By the time of this
paper, Phillips and a coworker had shown how an atom beam could be slowed
by an opposing laser beam if a varying magnetic field kept the atoms
in resonance by compensating for the changing Doppler shift as the atoms
decelerated. Phillips and coworkers had also reported the first observation
of electromagnetically trapped neutral atoms. However, and most importantly,
what was thought to be a fundamental theoretical lower limit on laser
cooling of atoms, the Doppler limit, was shown to be violated in this
paper. This very surprising discovery resulted from investigations to
obtain a better understanding of the basic nature of the optical cooling
process. The result was so surprising that Phillips and co-workers spent
considerable time testing the measurement system to make sure that it
was working properly. They then determined the velocity distribution
of the atoms (and, therefore, the temperature) four different ways before
submitting the paper for publication. This work furthered our understanding
of the interaction between light and matter and pointed the way for
a refined theory to explain these surprising results. Additionally,
the possibility of trapping atoms and cooling them to very low temperatures
has opened up new science and applications. The present generation of
atomic clocks, based on atomic fountains, would not have been possible
without sub-Doppler cooling. Ultracold atoms, which have very long de
Broglie wavelengths, have given rise to new research fields such as
atom optics, atom interferometry, optical lattices, and Bose-Einstein
condensation of dilute gases.
This compendium of summaries of NBS/NISTs "most significant publications"
has been published under the title A Century of Excellence in Measurements,
Standards, and Technology: A Chronicle of Selected NBS/ NIST Publications,
1901-2000, edited by David R. Lide (NIST Special Publication 948,
U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute
of Standards and Technology, Washington, DC, for sale by the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001). Additional NBS/
NIST publications included in the book that are of interest to chemists
cover the discovery of deuterium, accurate measurements of the gas constant,
the photo-chemistry of small molecules, electron probe microanalysis,
advances in surface science, and the behavior of fluids, particularly
in the critical region. A general review of NBS/NISTs impact on
the 20th century is NIST at 100: Foundations for Progress, by
Laura Ost (NIST Special Publication 956, U.S. Department of Commerce,
Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology,
Washington, DC, for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, 2001).
NBS/NIST Participation in IUPAC
Frederick Rossini, an NBS scientist who helped
establish the IUPAC Commission on Chemical Thermodynamics (I.2).
Rossini was also the principal author of the widely used publication
Selected Values of Chemical Thermodynamic Properties.
Roger G. Bates, an NBS scientist who served with
three different IUPAC Commissions from 1953 to 1983. He also played
an important role in the development of the pH scale.
Many scientists on the NBS/NIST staff have participated in IUPAC projects
as members of Commissions, Committees, and Subcommittees. Frederick
D. Rossini helped establish the Commission on Thermodynamics (I.2).
A particularly impressive record is that of Roger G. Bates, who served
on three different Commissions as well as on the Analytical Chemistry
Division (V) Committee. His tenure with IUPAC lasted 30 years (1953-1983).
A selected, but by no means complete, list of NBS/NIST participants
in IUPAC is given below, with emphasis on the past 20 years.
Physical Chemistry Division (I)
Subcommittee on Reference Materials
Stanley D. Rasberry
Commission on Physicochemical Symbols, Terminology, and Units (I.1)
David R. Lide (also President of Physical Chemistry Division, 1983-1987;
Chairman of Committee on Chemical Databases, 1985-1989)
Roger G. Bates
William H. Kirchhoff
Commission on Thermodynamics (I.2)
George T. Armstrong
Eugene S. Domalski
Robert N. Goldberg
Peter L. M. Heydemann
Patrick A. G. OHare (Chairman, 1989-1995; also served on Physical
Chemistry Division Committee, 1996-1999)
Edward J. Prosen
Frederick D. Rossini (led the Commission and its predecessor bodies
Howard J. White
Commission on Electrochemistry (I.3)
Roger G. Bates
Commission on Chemical Kinetics (I.4)
Robert F. Hampson
John T. Herron (Chairman, 1993-1997)
Robert E. Huie
Commission on Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy (I.5)
John T. Hougen
Commission on Colloid and Surface Chemistry Including Catalysis
Cedric J. Powell
Commission on Biophysical Chemistry (I.7)
Robert N. Goldberg (Secretary, 1996-2001)
Frederick D. Schwarz
Inorganic Chemistry Division (II)
Edward Wichers (President, 1955-1957)
Commission on Atomic Weights and Isotopic Abundances (II.1)
I. Lynus Barnes
Harry S. Hertz
Thomas J. Murphy
H. Steffen Peiser
Robert D. Vocke (Secretary, 1996-1997)
Commission on High Temperature Materials and Solid State Chemistry
John W. Hastie
Commission on Isotope Specific Measurements as Traceable References
John R. Moody
Robert D. Vocke
Analytical Chemistry Division (V)
Commission on Analytical Nomenclature (formerly V.3/V.1)
Lloyd A. Currie (also served on the Analytical Chemistry Division
Commission on Spectrochemical and Other Optical Procedures for Analysis
Gregory C. Turk
Commission on Electroanalytical Chemistry (V.5)
Roger G. Bates (Chairman; also served on Analytical Chemistry Division
Richard A. Durst (also served on Analytical Chemistry Division Committee,
William F. Koch
Kenneth W. Pratt
Commission on Solubility Data (V.8)
Lewis H. Gevantman (Secretary, 1983-1991)
Events to Mark the Centennial
The week of 1-8 March 2001 was designated as "Centennial Week" at NIST.
Major events held at NIST (Gaithersburg and Boulder laboratories) during
that week included the following:
- NIST Boulders accomplishments and outlook, March 1 (Boulder)
- NIST history and opening Centennial Symposium-Reunion Day for NIST
staff and alumni, March 5 (Gaithersburg and Boulder)
- Gala celebration, Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington,
DC, evening of March 6
- Symposium on Standards in the Global Economy: A Changing Future,
March 7 (Gaithersburg)
- Meeting of the National Metrology Institute Directors (Gaithersburg),
Approximately 65 scientific societies and professional organizations
have events to mark the NIST Centennial. These societies include the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Physical Society,
the Electrochemical Society, and the Pittsburgh Conference. IUPAC has
marked the NIST Centennial by means of a symposium on standards at the
16th IUPAC Conference
on Chemical Thermodynamics that was held 6-11 August 2000 in Halifax,
Nova Scotia, Canada. Additionally, a session on "Standards and Measurement:
Future Directions" will be featured at the World Chemistry Congress
to be held 1-6 July 2001 in Brisbane, Australia.
This article was contributed by Dr. Robert N. Goldberg (Biotechnology
Division, NIST, Gaithersburg, MD 20899, USA; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org),
Secretary of the IUPAC Commission on Biophysical Chemistry (I.7), and
Dr. David R. Lide, NIST alumnus and former President of the IUPAC Physical
Chemistry Division (I).