The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory began operations July 2, 1923, seven years after inventor Thomas Edison suggested that the Government establish “a great research laboratory.”
The original site on the Potomac River had just two research divisions, Radio and Sound. Over time, NRL added divisions appropriate to perform research in emerging disciplines.
Early achievements included the explanation of the radio “skip distance effect,” the development of the fathometer and early sonar, and the development of the first operational American radar, in time for use in World War II. NRL became a global leader in space science and development, spinning off a significant number of researchers and their work to contribute to the formation of NASA in 1958.
Even with such a large loss of people, NRL continued to lead in space development with the launch of Vanguard I and the Mini-track satellite tracking system, as well as the invention of atomic clocks and prototype systems, which led to the Global Positioning System used everywhere today.
NRL’s technical leadership in basic and applied research disciplines is recognized worldwide, with numerous award-winning scientists, including the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1985, awarded to Dr. Jerome Karle.
Today, NRL continues to extend its legacy of innovation and discovery with cutting-edge science and transition of capabilities to the Naval Services and constituents.