Harry Diamond Laboratories

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The Harry Diamond Laboratories (HDL) was a research facility of the Ordnance Development Division of the National Bureau of Standards and later the US Army, most notable for its work on proximity fuzes in World War II. The organization was founded in 1940, but was not named after its first director Harry Diamond until 1962. HDL was one of seven Army laboratories merged to form the new Army Research Laboratory in 1992.[1]


In 1940, concerned about increasing warfare abroad, the National Defense Research Committee organized a group of scientists and engineers into the Ordnance Development Division of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), to develop fuzes for non-rotating (fin-stabilized) munitions such as bombs, rockets and mortar shells. Harry Diamond, a pioneer radio engineer, was given technical direction of the program, a position he held until his death in 1948. Proximity fuzes were first used in combat in January 1943, and the U.S. War Department later described the proximity fuze as "one of the outstanding scientific developments of World War II ... second only to the atomic bomb" in military importance.

In 1952, the Ordnance Development Division was transferred from NBS to the Army as a research and development (R&D) installation[2] and named the Diamond Ordnance Fuze Laboratories (DOFL) in honor of its early leader.[3] DOFL made significant contributions in areas such as printed circuits, casting resins, flow and temperature measurement, reserve power supplies, high-resolution radar, air navigation systems and nuclear effects studies.

In a 1962 Army reorganization, DOFL was assigned directly to the Army Materiel Command (AMC) as a corporate laboratory; in 1963, its name was officially changed to Harry Diamond Laboratories (HDL). AMC later established the Electronics Research and Development Command (ERADCOM) as subordinate command, with HDL reporting to that command. HDL was subsequently transferred to the Army Laboratory Command (LABCOM).

In 1972, Jack Anderson reported that HDL was working on "short-time-span control of human behavior", which Anderson characterized as "Experiments to control human behavior with science fiction devices". An Army spokesman responded that the research program was looking at alternative ways for crowd control.[4]

In 1992, the Army created the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) by combining seven existing Army laboratories including HDL.


In 1940, the laboratory was located at Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness St. in Washington, DC. In the 1940s, it did its work on 35 acres (14 ha) in northwestern Washington.[5]

By the early 1970s, HDL occupied a modern research facility located on 137 acres (55 ha) in Adelphi, Maryland. It also had a test range at Blossom Point, Maryland, a 1,600-acre (6.5 km2) U.S. Army installation near La Plata, Maryland, and research facilities at Woodbridge, Virginia.

The Woodbridge site was closed in the 1990s, after the Army decided to stop electromagnetic pulse testing there. In 1989, the commander of the HDL said that the decision to stop this testing was mainly based on the Army's need to perform more powerful testing, something not appropriate for the thickly settled neighborhood around the site.[6] In 1997, the 580 acres (2.3 km2) became the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.[7]


  1. ^ "History of the Army Research Lab" (pdf) Archived 2008-11-12 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Development of the Visual-Type Airway Radio-Beacon System". Retrieved 2009-05-26. in "A Century of Excellence in Measurements, Standards, and Technology: A Chronicle of Selected NBS/NIST Publications, 1901-2000), NIST Special Publication 958
  3. ^ "Recipients of the Harry Diamond Award". IEEE. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  4. ^ Jack Anderson (August 3, 1972). "Secret Study in Behavior Control". Ocala Star-Banner.
  5. ^ Russell Carollo (April 23, 2007). "Wastes of War: Out in open: Former military facilities have been devoted to a wide range of uses -- but environmental risks remain". Sacramento Bee.
  6. ^ "Army to Halt Electromagnetic Tests In Woodbridge 2 Years After Lawsuit; Alternative Site Sought for Measuring Effects of Nuclear Blasts". The Washington Post. July 13, 1989. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012.
  7. ^ "Refuge to Allow Visitors". The Washington Post. August 28, 1997. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Army Labs Cut Back Basic Research". The Scientist. July 27, 1987.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°01′40″N 76°57′50″W / 39.027860°N 76.963809°W / 39.027860; -76.963809