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Establishment of the "Measurements Building"


In 1924 (and later!) the newspapers reported repeatedly mysterious incidents, suggested to be due to the existence of a "lethal beam". Subsequently the Dutch Parliament founded a committee presided by a professor of the Dutch University of Delft, Prof.Jhr.Dr.G.J.Elias. The committee named "Committee for the Applications of Physics in Weaponry" had to investigate the phenomena. Members were knowledgeable officers of different military branches and representatives of various scientific disciplines. The Minister of War's instruction to the Committee went beyond the issue of the "lethal beam" by requiring members to incorporate physics principles in military equipment to improve performance as needed and to advise him on the matter. A young scientist, J.L. van Soest graduate of Technical University Delft, was appointed to conduct study and research.

Prof.Elias discovered soon that the reports about lethal beams were not a reality and it was better to pay attention to more important subjects of interest for defense. The committee wanted a location for investigation under direction of Ir.J.L.van Soest who joined the organization on February 1st 1927. Ir.van Soest and his assistant instrument maker P.D.Groot put this location (100 m2) named the "Meetgebouw" (Measurements Building) into use on December 1st 1927. They shared this building with the Dutch Military Weather Service. This building was situated on the Plain of Waalsdorp in the dunes near the present day TNO building.

Here Van Soest and an "Instrumentmaker" (mechanical engineer) as assistant started work formally on December 1st 1927. These two people were provided with 3 rooms totaling to 100 sq. meters floor space. The date mentioned has since then yearly been celebrated as the day of the foundation of the laboratory. However, in order not to arouse unnecessary suspicions in those prewar years the premises received the name "Measurements Building" rather than "Laboratory".
This name was in use until the German invasion in 1940.

Van Soest started there the investigation of listening equipment for airplane observation (Air Acoustics) in use in the Army and developed his own listen equipment because the industrial equipment had unsolvable shortages. The Van Soest apparatus was a great success and has led to industrial production for the Army.

Further important projects were, the development of a radio-meteorograph for the Military Weather Service, the development of an infrared detection apparatus in behalf of the river guard, the development of a radio transmitter/ receiver for the Dutch Artillery and the electronic listening equipment for airplane observation. Manager of the last two projects was Jhr.Ir.J.L.W.C.von Weiler, who joined the "Meetgebouw" in 1934.
The items IFF, landmine detection and Underwater Acoustics were still in the experimental stage. The number of employees grew in the prewar years to 37 in 1940. The workfloor increased to some 400 sq. meters.

The electronic listening equipment, nowadays called RADAR, was ready in 1938. When the invasion by the Germans in 1940 took place, two equipment were operational of which one was in service on the "Malieveld" in the Hague to detect German airplanes. Before the capitulation Von Weiler escaped to England with the documentation of the equipment and two mainframes. In cooperation with English radar specialists, Von Weiler continued his work in England until 1946.

Upwards of 20 men of the "Meetgebouw" were joined to the Post, Telegraph and Telephone Organization PTT as "Physics Laboratory PTT" in 1941 and moved to the "Centrale Werkplaats" PTT (Central Workshop) at the Binkhorstlaan in The Hague in 1943.
During World War 2, the people of the "Meetgebouw" tried to minimize the work they had to do for the Germans in which they partly succeeded. Clandestine they built a broadcasting station that came in use after the occupation of The Netherlands ended in May 1945 and was operated by personnel of the laboratory.

The Measurement Building - photo at the right was basis for painting by G. Mooij


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