ONR Historical Timeline

1923 Naval Research Laboratory

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the first modern research institution created within the U.S. Navy, opens its doors at 11AM, July 2, in Washington, D.C. Today, NRL facilities are located in California, Maryland, Mississippi and Virginia.

Photo/Image provided courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory.

1934 Radar Patents

On June 13, Naval Research Laboratory researchers Albert H. Taylor, Leo C. Young and Lawrence A. Hyland receive the first U.S. radar patents for detecting objects by radio.

1939 Uranium, A-Bomb

In the six-year span from 1939 to 1946, Navy scientists develop methods vital to the production of uranium 235, eventually used in the creation of the atomic bomb.

1946 ONR Established

On August 1, President Harry S. Truman approves legislation establishing the Office of Naval Research (ONR), charging ONR to "...plan, foster and encourage scientific research in recognition of its paramount importance as related to the maintenance of future naval power, and the preservation of national security..."

1960 Trieste Deep Boat

Lt. Don Walsh, USN, and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard complete a record dive Jan. 23 aboard the Trieste, a Swiss-designed, U.S. Navy-owned, deep-diving research bathyscaphe, or deep boat. The dive reaches a record-breaking depth of 35,800 ft. in waters off the coast of Guam, the deepest part of any ocean on earth.

1964 Alvin

In June, a deep submergence vehicle called Alvin is commissioned on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution dock. Alvin is the product of eight years of research to send man into deep ocean waters.

1964-1965 SEALAB I and II

ONR supports underwater research on the physiological and psychological effects of living and working in confined and unnatural conditions. The Navy submerges the first underwater habitat - SEALAB I - off the coast of Bermuda in 1964. It houses four researchers for eleven days at 192 feet in a warm ocean area. In 1965, aquanaut/astronaut Scott Carpenter spends a record 30 days in the second submerged habitat, SEALAB II.


Thomas Rosmond, Ph.D. develops the Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Pressure System (NOGAPS), the Navy's first global numerical weather prediction system. The Department of Defense and civilian forecasters use NOGAPS for daily weather guidance worldwide.

1985 Ballard, Titanic

Former ONR researcher Robert Ballard, Ph.D., leads an expeditionary team to the wreckage of the RMS Titanic on Sept. 1. The team uses side-scan sonar to detect the ship at a depth 3,795 meters in the North Atlantic. The landmark discovery comes more than 73 years after the vessel sank on its maiden voyage.

1995 Clementine Spacecraft

The Clementine, a spacecraft built and operated by the Naval Research Laboratory, and jointly managed by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and NASA, successfully enters orbit round the moon in February 1994. It takes 1.6 million digital images in its first two months in orbit.

Photo/Image provided courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory.

2002 UUVs, UAVs, QuikClot

ONR develops naval applications for autonomous unmanned undersea vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Researchers also develop sand abatement technology to counter improvised explosive devices, and QuickClot™, an agent used to reduce soldier mortality from blood loss.

2007 Infantry Immersion Trainer

The Infantry Immersion Trainer becomes fully operational in December. Developed with research funding from ONR, the simulator provides a virtual training environment to heighten Marines' ability to recognize threats and make split-second decisions before deploying to face real combat.

2008 Electromagnetic Railgun

On Jan. 31, ONR successfully conducts a record-setting fire of an electromagnetic railgun at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va. The technology uses high power electromagnetic energy instead of explosive chemical propellants to move projectiles farther and faster than any preceding gun.


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