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Proceedings Paper

100 years of photometry and radiometry
Author(s): Jonathan E. Hardis
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Paper Abstract

Measurement of light is an old subject, though the past 100 years have seen significant advances. 100 years ago, photometry - the art and science of measuring light as it is perceived by people - had the greater technological importance. Even today SI (the metric system) retains a base unit for photometry, the candela. However, early work at NBS included pivotal projects in the field of radiometry - the measurement of the physical characteristics of light. These included the validation of Planck's newly-minted theory of blackbody radiation, determining the radiation constants with good accuracy, and the definitive analysis of the spectral responsivity of human vision, so as to relate photometry to radiometry. This latter work has only increased in importance over the past 75 years as the definition of the candela has changed and improved. Today, NIST makes radiometric, and hence photometric measurements, with unprecedented precision. Cryogenic radiometers based on the principle of electrical substitution measure optical flux with uncertainties of 0.02%. Additional facilities enable measurement of spectral responsivity, spectral radiance, and spectral irradiance. Novel detectors, such as light-traps, allow the best accuracy to be transferred from the primary standards to routinely-used instruments and to calibration customers. Filtered detectors are used to realize photometric scales, radiation temperature scales, and other specialized measurements. Indeed, the story of the metrology of light is the story of continuous improvement, both driven by and enabled by advances in technology. We touch upon some of these as a prelude to the other talks in this Conference.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 June 2001
PDF: 18 pages
Proc. SPIE 4450, Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Metrology at NIST, (18 June 2001); doi: 10.1117/12.431250
Show Author Affiliations
Jonathan E. Hardis, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4450:
Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Metrology at NIST
Carmina Londono, Editor(s)

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