NIST’s Role in the Early Decades of Radio (1911-1933)

by John Roberts on February 19, 2020

J. Howard Dellinger took on the project of calibrating the first radio instrument at NIST.
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NIST’s Role in the Early Decades of Radio (1911-1933)

A historical black-and-white photo shows a man in a suit with equipment labeled "Amplifier Unit" and "Rectifier Unit."

Even if you weren’t able to watch the recent Super Bowl on TV, you could still listen to the play-by-play commentary on the radio. But radio does more than just broadcasting sporting events or playing music. It plays a major role in emergency response, navigation and science.

The word “radio,” however, didn’t become part of our regular vocabulary until 1911, and it happened thanks in part to J. Howard Dellinger, a radio scientist at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), the agency that became the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This came about when the second International Radiotelegraph Conference was being planned in London, and a professor sent Dellinger a paper that he was going to present to the conference for review.

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