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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a measurements standards laboratory, a non-regulatory agency working under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The agency aims to improve innovation and competitiveness through the advancement of technology, standards, and measurement science as well as improve quality of life and enhance financial security.
Between 1901 and 1988, this agency was known as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).
As a unit of the Department of Commerce, NIST must develop and promote standards in order to facilitate innovation and stability due to standardization. This has been the quest of NIST ever since its inception in 1790, when President Washington declared in his first message to Congress that the uniformity of currency and weights and measurements must be seen to. He ordered the then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to prepare a plan for this. NIST itself (originally known as NBS) came to being in 1901, with its predecessor, the Office of Standard Weights and Measures doing the job since 1830 as part of the U.S. Treasury Department.
NIST’s headquarters is in Gaithersburg, Maryland with another operational facility in Boulder, Colorado. Its operations are separated as laboratory programs and extramural programs. As of October 1st, 2010, there are six laboratory units:
· Information Technology Laboratory (ITL)
· Engineering Laboratory (EL)
· Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML)
· Material Measurement Laboratory (MML)
· NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR)
· Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST)