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The National Standards Laboratory (NSL) was a Sydney-based branch of the CSIR/O - Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR); which, in 1949, became the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). During the work of the Optical Munitions Panel the NSL assisted manufacturers in New South Wales in the same manner that the Munitions Supply Laboratories did for Victorian manufacturers.

The NSL's main work was centred around 'the study of the absorption of ultraviolet, infra-red and ordinary light by glasses of all kinds'.(1) They designed special goggles which allowed Australian servicemen and women to look directly into the sun without damaging their eyes (while scanning the sky for enemy aircraft); and developed solutions to the physical problem of 'dark adaptation' by devising methods by which servicemen and women could maximise their eyesight ability in changing light conditions. The NSL found that a particular shade of red light actually assisted the human eye to adjust more rapidly to changing light conditions, and in particular, the dark. Their recommendations included the use of red light goggles by pilots waiting to depart on an air-raid, red flood-lighting for aircraft cockpits and red luminous paint (rather than blue) for instrument dials).

Two of the main physicists employed at the NSL were:

The physicists and technicians at the NSL also tested finished instruments and components, including products from the British Optical Company. They also examined such things as optical constants, refractive index, homogeneity and light absorption of optical glass made by the Australian Window Glass Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Australian Consolidated Industries). The results of these tests were circulated to other Australian physicists as papers of the Optical Munition Panel.

(1) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 271.

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Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 30 April 1997
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (bsparcs@asap.unimelb.edu.au)
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland and Elissa Tenkate
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 19 February 1998

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