NRL Marks 75 Years of Scientific and Technological Achievements for the Navy and the Nation

6/15/1998 - 11-98r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

This year, 1998, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, DC, celebrates 75 years of accomplishments in science and technology. The theme of this diamond anniversary reflects on the Laboratory's achievements, and highlights current research and development activities that have had and continue to have a profound impact on the Navy and the Nation.

NRL was officially founded on July 2, 1923, after the famous inventor Thomas Edison recommended that a "modern research facility for the Navy" be established. In the following seven decades, research efforts have expanded from the two original areas of scientific endeavor, radio and underwater sound, to 19 broad areas that encompass many diverse fields.

Early research achievements include the discovery and explanation of radio skip distance (the foundation of modern wave-propagation theory); the development of the fathometer and early sonar; and development of the first operational American radar, in time for use in World War II.

During World War II, scientific activities concentrated almost entirely on applied research. Ships' electronic countermeasures were devised, the first application of cryptography in radar identification was used and the U.S's first Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) radio system were all developed at NRL.

The postwar era was a time of great expansion for NRL. The Laboratory significantly added to its prewar research program in radio, radar, underwater sound, chemistry, metallurgy, optics, nuclear science and cosmic rays.

NRL pioneered naval research into space from atmospheric probes with captured V-2 rockets through the direction of the Vanguard project--America's first satellite program, to such projects as the Navy's Global Positioning System and more recently the Clementine mission. NRL produced the first satellite communication system by using the moon as a reflector and receiving the returned signals on the Earth's largest parabolic antenna; this was a first step toward artificial satellite communications. Since the late 1950's, Laboratory scientists have designed, built and launched more than 80 satellites.

NRL's Laboratory for the Structure of Matter has become internationally famous for its ground-breaking work in using electron and x-ray diffraction methods for understanding the structure of complicated organic molecules. The Laboratory's Dr. Jerome Karle received the 1985 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in this regard.

The Laboratory's current research program spans the scientific spectrum, including studies in topics as diverse as electronic warfare, IR countermeasures, fire suppression, information technology, radar technology, monitoring the solar corona and its impact on the Earth's atmosphere, biomolecular engineering, artificial intelligence, remote sensing, meteorology and oceanography.

For more information about current programs at NRL, please visit the Lab's web site at:

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About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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