National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom)

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National Physical Laboratory (United Kingdom)
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|campus = |affiliations = |operating_agency = Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy|nobel_laureates =}}|logo =
The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom, based at Bushy Park in Teddington, London, England. It comes under the management of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


(File:National Physical Laboratory- Science and Technology in Wartime, Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK, 1944 D22641.jpg|thumb|left|The Electricity Division of the National Physical Laboratory in 1944)The National Physical Laboratory was established in 1900 at Bushy House "to bring scientific knowledge to bear practically upon our everyday industrial and commercial life".WEB,weblink history, National Physical Laboratory, 6 May 2018, It grew to fill a large selection of buildings on the Teddington site.WEB,weblink Development of the NPL Site 1900-1970.pdf, 2013, 23 December 2013, NPL procured a large state-of-the-art laboratory under a Private Finance Initiative contract in 1998. The construction, which was being undertaken by John Laing, and the maintenance of this new building, which was being undertaken by Serco, was transferred back to the DTI in 2004 after the private sector companies involved made losses of over £100m.WEB,weblink The Termination of the PFI Contract for the National Physical Laboratory |National Audit Office,, 2013, 23 December 2013, The laboratory was initially run by the UK government, with members of staff being part of the civil service. Administration of NPL was contracted out in 1995 under a Government Owned Contractor Operated model, with Serco winning the bid and all staff transferred to their employ. Under this regime, overhead costs halved, third party revenues grew by 16% per annum, and the number of peer-reviewed research papers published doubled.Labs under the microscope – Ethos. (2 February 2012). Retrieved on 12 April 2014. It was decided in 2012 to change the operating model for NPL from 2014 onward to include academic partners and to establish a postgraduate teaching institute on site.WEB,weblink Microsoft Word - Briefing document 26 March 2013_final - establishing-a-new-partnership-for-the-npl-briefing-note.pdf, 2013, 23 December 2013, The date of the changeover was later postponed for up to a year.WEB,weblink NPL contract with Serco extended : News : News + Events : National Physical Laboratory,, 2014, 3 April 2014, The candidates for lead academic partner were the Universities of Edinburgh, Southampton, Strathclyde and SurreyWEB,weblink Future operation of the National Physical Laboratory | National Measurement System | BIS,, 2013, 23 December 2013, with an alliance of the Universities of Strathclyde and Surrey chosen as preferred partners.WEB,weblink Press Release – Universities of Surrey and Strathclyde selected as strategic partners in the future operation of the National Physical Laboratory, NPL, 10 July 2014, 11 July 2014, 5, In January 2013 funding for a new £25m Advanced Metrology Laboratory was announced that will be built on the footprint of an existing unused building.WEB,weblink Announcement of £25 million Advanced Metrology Laboratory at NPL | News | BIS, David, Willetts,, 2013, 23 December 2013, WEB,weblink National Physical Laboratory, Hampton Road, Teddington, Middlesex, United Kingdom, TW11 0LW - aml-letter-july2013.pdf, 2013, 23 December 2013, The operation of the laboratory transferred back to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) ownership on 1 January 2015.Future operation of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). Retrieved 24 March 2015


The National Physical Laboratory is involved with new developments in metrology, such as researching metrology for, and standardising, nanotechnology.JOURNAL, Minelli, C. & Clifford, C.A., The role of metrology and the UK National Physical Laboratory in Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology Perceptions, 2012, 8, 59–75, It is mainly based at the Teddington site, but also has a site in Huddersfield for dimensional metrologyWEB,weblink Dimensional Specialist Inspection and Measurement Services : Measurement Services : Commercial Services : National Physical Laboratory,, 2013, 23 December 2013, and an underwater acoustics facility at Wraysbury Reservoir.WEB,weblink Calibration and characterisation of sonar transducers and systems : Products & Services : Underwater Acoustics : Acoustics : Science + Technology : National Physical Laboratory,, 2013, 23 December 2013, {{-}}


File:Robert Watson-Watt.jpg|Robert Watson-Watt
File:Atomic Clock-Louis Essen.jpg|Louis Essen (right)Researchers who have worked at NPL include:WEB,weblink Notable Individuals, National Physical Laboratory, 2017-10-17, D. W. Dye who did important work in developing the technology of quartz clocks. The inventor Sir Barnes Wallis did early development work there on the "Bouncing Bomb" used in the "Dam Busters" wartime raids.Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society H.J. Gough, one of the pioneers of research into metal fatigue, worked at NPL for 19 years from 1914 to 1938. Sydney Goldstein and Sir James Lighthill worked in NPL's aerodynamics division during World War II researching boundary layer theory and supersonic aerodynamics respectively. Dr Clifford Hodge also worked there and was engaged in research on semiconductors. Others who have spent time at NPL include Robert Watson-Watt, generally considered the inventor of radar, Oswald Kubaschewski, the father of computational materials thermodynamics and the numerical analyst James Wilkinson.WEB,weblink James (Jim) Hardy Wilkinson, IEEE Computer Society, 6 May 2018,


NPL research has contributed to physical science, materials science, computing, and bioscience. Applications have been found in ship design, aircraft development, radar, computer networking and global positioning.WEB,weblink Research, National Physical Laboratory, 2017-10-17,

Atomic clocks

The first accurate atomic clock, a caesium standard based on a certain transition of the caesium-133 atom, was built by Louis Essen and Jack Parry in 1955 at NPL.JOURNAL, Essen, L., Louis Essen, Parry, J. V. L., 10.1038/176280a0, 1955Natur.176..280E, An Atomic Standard of Frequency and Time Interval: A Cæsium Resonator, Nature, 176, 4476, 280–282, 1955, WEB,weblink 60 years of the Atomic Clock, National Physical Laboratory, 2017-10-17, Calibration of the caesium standard atomic clock was carried out by the use of the astronomical time scale ephemeris time (ET).JOURNAL
, W. Markowitz, R.G. Hall, L. Essen, J.V.L. Parry, 1958
, Frequency of cesium in terms of ephemeris time
, Physical Review Letters
, 1, 3
, 105–107
, 10.1103/PhysRevLett.1.105, 1958PhRvL...1..105M
, This led to the internationally agreed definition of the latest SI second being based on atomic time.WEB,weblink What Is International Atomic Time (TAI)?, Time and Date, 6 May 2018,


NPL has undertaken computer research since the mid-1940s.WEB,weblink History of NPL Computing, National Physical Laboratory, 2017-10-17, From 1945, Alan Turing led the design of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) computer. The ACE project was overambitious and floundered, leading to Turing's departure.JOURNAL, Martin, Cambell-Kelly, Pioneer Profiles: Donald Davies, Computer Resurrection, 44, Autumn 2008, 0958-7403,weblink Donald Davies took the project over and concentrated on delivering the less ambitious Pilot ACE computer, which first worked in May 1950. Among those who worked on the project was American computer pioneer Harry Huskey. A commercial spin-off, DEUCE was manufactured by English Electric Computers and became one of the best-selling machines of the 1950s.

Packet switching

{{See also|History of the Internet|Internet in the United Kingdom#History}}Beginning in the mid-1960s, Donald Davies and his team at the NPL pioneered packet switching, now the dominant basis for data communications in computer networks worldwide. Davies designed and proposed a national data network based on packet switching in his 1965 Proposal for the Development of a National Communications Service for On-line Data Processing.{{Citation | last = Davies | first = D. W. | author-link = Donald | title = Proposal for a Digital Communication Network | publisher = National Physical Laboratory | year = 1966 | url =weblink }} Subsequently, the NPL team (Davies, Derek Barber, Roger Scantlebury, Peter Wilkinson, Keith Bartlett, and Brian Aldous)WEB, Technology of the Internet,weblink The National Museum of Computing, 3 October 2017, developed the concept into a local area network which operated from 1969 to 1986, and carried out work to analyse and simulate the performance of packet switching networks. Their research and practice influenced the ARPANET in the United States, the forerunner of the Internet, and other researchers in the UK and Europe.BOOK, Gillies, James, Cailliau, Robert, How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web, 2000, Oxford University Press, 978-0192862075, 25,weblink BOOK, Isaacson, Walter, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, 2014, Simon & Schuster, 9781476708690, 237,weblink BOOK,weblink C. Hempstead, W. Worthington, Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Technology, Routledge, 2005, 9781135455514, WEB, Stewart, Bill, UK National Physical Laboratory (NPL) & Donald Davies, Living Internet, 7 January 2000,weblink 12 May 2008,

Directors of NPL

{{Gallery|title=Directors of NPL height=170|align=centerE. V. AppletonW. L. BraggC. G. DarwinPeter Clapham}}Directors of NPL include a number of notable individuals.WEB,weblink Directors, National Physical Laboratory, en, 2017-10-17, Managing Directors Chief Executive Officers
  • Dr Peter Thompson, 2015–presentWEB,weblink New CEO for National Physical Laboratory : News : News + Events : National Physical Laboratory,, 2015, 1 September 2015,
Image:Npl bushy house 2.JPG|Bushy HouseImage:Npl building2.JPG|The Darwin buildingImage:Npl new building module1.JPG|Part of the new buildingFile:National Physical Laboratory - - 16240.jpg|NPL's main entrance on Hampton RoadFile:PSM V60 D136 Bushy house ground plan.png|Ground floor plan of Bushy House in 1901/1902File:PSM V60 D136 Bushy house basement plan.png|Basement plan of Bushy House in 1901/1902

See also



External links

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