The Birth of National Bureau of Standards (NBS)
In United States the congress has the power to fix the standards of weights and measures and they are the authority to control the matters pertinent to the standards of measurement. In year 1866 it was declared that, “It shall be lawful to throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of metric system," which showed that metric system could be used for measurement.
In the year 1875, agreement was signed in Paris, France to establish and maintain scientific and permanent international bureau of weights and measures at Paris. Though the bureau was established, it did not bind the US to use or adopt the standards developed by the bureau.
Since the congress did not take any further action, in the year 1893, Superintendent Mendenhall of the Coast and Geodetic Survey issued the order as follows:
“The office of Weights and Measures with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, will in the future regard the international prototype meter and the kilogram as fundamental standards, and the customary units, the yard and the pound, will be derived therefrom in accordance with the Act of July 1866."
The order from Mendenhall was a historic one and it turned out to be crucial in the further developments of the units of measurement. Two important decisions were taken by this order. First, the order made it clear that the meter and kilogram would be the fundamental units for the measurement of length and mass respectively. Secondly, it tied together the metric and English system of measurement of length and mass and helped establishing the definite relationship between the two systems thus making the possible the international exchange on a more exact basis.
Meanwhile, in a number of countries including Great Britain and Germany, special bureaus were developed for the standards of measurement. Further, there were lots of requests from the scientific and industrial community. Finally, on March 3, 1901, the US Congress passed the act providing that, “The office of Standard Weights and Measures shall hereafter be known as ‘The National Bureau of Standards’". The Congress expanded the functions of the new bureau.
The functions of National Standards of Bureau (NBS) were to develop standards, do the research of the basic to standards and the calibration of the standards and devices. The NBS was formally established in the year 1910 and was further expanded by the amendment in the year 1950.