Oliver R. Smoot

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Oliver Reed Smoot, Jr. (born 1940) was Chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) from 2001 to 2002 and President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) from 2003 to 2004. He received his Bachelor of Science from MIT and his Juris Doctor (law degree) from Georgetown University. In 2011 the American Heritage Dictionary admitted his decapitalized surname, "smoot", as one of the 10,000 new words added to their fifth edition. The term is named for Smoot from his undergraduate days when he was used as a unit of measure during a fraternity pledge.[1][2]


Smoot, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, graduated from MIT with the class of 1962. He is primarily known in Boston, Massachusetts for the smoot marks on the Harvard Bridge, where he was used as a unit of measure for measuring the length of the bridge, as part of a fraternity pledging prank.

Smoot gave a speech to a hearing of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Technology on March 20, 2000, entitled “The Role of Technical Standards in Today's Society and in the Future".

He returned to MIT on October 4, 2008 for a 50th anniversary celebration,[3] including the installation of a plaque on the bridge. Smoot was also presented with an official unit of measurement: a smoot stick.[4]


His cousin George Smoot won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cornish, Audie (2011-11-13). "Looking Up Words In A Book Not So Strange Yet". National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary entry". American Heritage Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Say Hello to Mr. Smoot of Smoot Fame
  4. ^ "Smoot and roll". New Scientist (Iss. 2671). 27 August 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ Talk of the Nation (6 October 2006). "Winning the Nobel Prize". National Public Radio. Retrieved 7 October 2006. 


External links[edit]

  • "smoot". Sizes.com. Retrieved 8 July 2010.